Queen Elizabeth II portrait by Andy Warhol sells for record $853,000 at auction

Silkscreen print is one of four of the late monarch from the Pop artist's 1985 Reigning Queens series

The Royal Edition of Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth II, which is decorated with diamond dust, was sold for $853,000 in Toronto. Photo: Future Publishing via Getty Images
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An Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has fetched $853,000 in a bidding war at Heffel auction house in Toronto, marking a new auction record for a print by the US artist.

The silkscreen print of the late monarch, made from an official 1977 photograph celebrating her silver jubilee, is one of four that Warhol included in his 1985 Reigning Queens series.

The artwork, a coveted Royal Edition, is decorated with diamond dust and had a low estimate of $373,000. Bidding for the lot opened at $400,000 and, after a brief lull in offers, was subject to a fevered competition, according to The Art Newspaper.

The portrait finally came under the hammer to an unnamed telephone bidder.

The silkscreen print is one of four portraits of the late monarch that Andy Warhol included in his Reigning Queens series. Photo: Sotheby's

Warhol’s Reigning Queens series sought to celebrate the four ruling female monarchs of his day, who along with Queen Elizabeth II also included Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Ntfombi Twala of Swaziland and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

All silkscreen prints were made using official photographs and overlaid with Warhol’s signature blocks of colour. The prints were also featured in a Royal Edition, which were embellished with ground-up glass or diamond dust, giving the pieces a shimmering visual effect. Only 30 sets of the Royal Edition were produced.

The British Royal Collection acquired the four prints in 2012. They were shown at Windsor Castle that same year in an exhibition titled The Queen: Portraits of a Monarch. They were the only works in the exhibition that the former queen did not sit for or commission herself.

A description of the prints by the Royal Collection wrote that Warhol simplified the official portrait of the royal, taken by photographer Peter Grugeon, so all that remained was “a mask-like face”.

“All character has been removed and we are confronted by a symbol of royal power,” the description reads. “By reproducing the same image four times, Warhol demonstrates his interest in mass production and reminds us that Queen Elizabeth II is the most depicted woman in the world.”

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Updated: November 27, 2022, 10:03 AM