LONDON – Andy Warhol's Portrait of a Young Woman (After Cranach) reimagines in dazzling reds and vibrant yellows a work by the German Renaissance master Lucas Cranach the Elder. The series Art from Art, which depicts cropped images of Old Master and Modern paintings, formed a crucial art historical thread in the last decade of Warhol’s life.
ANDY WARHOL, PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG WOMAN (AFTER CRANACH), 1985. ESTIMATE £800,000–1,800,000.
In other works from this series Warhol appropriated imagery from the fathers of the Renaissance Paolo Uccello, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael through to 20th-century masters such as Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch and Pablo Picasso.
The work offered in Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening auction this February is based on Cranach’s Portrait of a Young Woman, now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. Princess Sibylle of Cleves, the bride of John Frederick of Saxony, pensively stands in an intricately painted dress at a window ledge overlooking expansive rolling countryside.
LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN, 1526. HERMITAGE MUSEUM, ST. PETERSBURG. IMAGE © SCALA, FLORENCE.
The perfect archetype of Warhol’s art history paintings, his work crops and condenses Cranach’s original, and in doing so concentrates on the sitter’s face and hat. Details are simplified to slick, clean lines, and colours are amplified to include ruby reds, purples and greens, which give the work the celebrated commercialised, fetishistic aura of its maker.
Where Princess Sibylle was presented as the epitome of beauty in Cranach’s œuvre, in Portrait of a Young Woman (After Cranach) she becomes the epitome of Warholian beauty. Cranach’s historical eminence is firmly transported into the realm of Warholian Pop culture – her mesmerising face appears in tantalising colour and luxurious brushwork, joining the pantheon of Warhol’s women who precede her.
Antonia Gardner is a specialist in the Contemporary art department, Sotheby’s London.