Lot 45
  • 45

Andy Warhol

3,000,000 - 5,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Andy Warhol
  • The Kiss (Bela Lugosi)
  • signed and dated 64 on the reverse
  • unique silkscreen print on paper
  • 29 7/8 x 39 3/4 in. 76 x 101 cm.


Leo Castelli Gallery, New York (LC #D-20)
Galerie Ricke, Cologne
Mrs. Margot Krätz, Buchschlag, Frankfurt
Sotheby's, London, December 5, 1978, Lot 18
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Zurich, Kunsthaus Zürich, Andy Warhol, May - July 1978, cat. no. 59, p. 94, illustrated (incorrectly dated 1963)


Rainer Crone, Andy Warhol, New York, 1970, cat. no. 605, p. 273, illustrated (other unique examples)
Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné 1962-1987, 4th Edition revised and expanded by Frayda Feldman and Claudia Defendi, New York, 2003, cat. no. 1.2, p. 46, illustrated (other unique examples)


Please contact the Contemporary Art Department at (212) 606-7254 for the condition report prepared by Paper Conservation Studio, Inc. This work is hinged at intervals to ragboard and framed in a wooden frame with white gold face under Plexiglas.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Created shortly after Andy Warhol first pioneered the silk-screening technique that was to transform the direction of his work and with it the course of art history, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) is an historic work that documents both thematically and technically the birth of Warhol's Pop Art genius. Capturing the bygone essence of Hollywood's 1930s silent movie era, this work epitomizes his appropriated silver-screen subject matter as he stood on the cusp of artistic greatness. Tackling the revered subject of 'The Kiss' in this landmark composition, Warhol knowingly aligned himself to the illustrious canon of artists previously inspired by this hallowed motif in Western art history. Like the eponymous masterpieces by Gustav Klimt and Auguste Rodin, and the thematic precedent of Edvard Munch’s The Vampire, Warhol's interpretation of The Kiss is similarly rich in drama, romance, and beauty. What Warhol added to the genre with this work is a cinematic sense of tension and danger; one that set in motion the enduring fascinations with death, glamour, and celebrity that came to inspire some of his most powerful and iconic paintings over the next two years. 

This work was created alongside the monumental canvas version of The Kiss that resides in the permanent collection of the Museum Boijmans van-Beuningen in Rotterdam. Built up through striated layers of pitch black ink that draw the viewer's gaze across the flickering image, this cinematic portrayal of Dracula joins Warhol's contemporaneous unique silkscreens on paper of Cagney and Suicide. Derived from a still photo from Tod Browning's 1931 silent film of Bram Stoker's book Dracula starring Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) depicts the pivotal scene when the charismatic and sophisticated vampire portrayed by Lugosi is about to bite the neck of Mina, played by Helen Chandler. Mina's impending transformation into a vampire simultaneously juxtaposes her tragic premature death and her ultimate immortality - a paradoxical possibility that Warhol subsequently explored in his iconic portraits of Marilyn Monroe later that year. 

As one of the first works that Warhol created using the silkscreen, The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) encapsulates the profound impact that this change in technique had upon his image-making. It displays all the subtle changes in ink saturation and tone that arose during the silk-screening process: effects that so strongly appealed to Warhol and enabled him to achieve in painting the translucency normally associated with film. Warhol described this early experimentation in technique: "With silkscreening, you pick a photograph, blow it up, transfer it onto silk, and then roll ink across so that the ink goes through the silk but not through the glue. That way you get the same image, slightly differently each time. It was all so simple, quick and chancy. I was thrilled with it." (Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism: The Warhol 60s, New York, 1980, p. 22)

Coinciding with the beginning of Warhol's filmmaking career, both image and subject matter of the present work relate to Warhol's own film of the same name. Kiss (1963), one of artist's first films, presents a series of three-minute, black and white close-ups of different couples engaged in almost motionless kissing. Warhol had also begun shooting his own Dracula movie in late 1963 with his Bolex, on three minute reels, staring Jack Smith who had a theory that everyone was "vampirical" to a certain extent because they "made unreasonable demands." (Ibid., p. 41) Subsequently using his own movies as source inspiration, Warhol started to adapt his film imagery to incorporate frames from his reels, which he screen-printed directly onto Plexiglas. The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) printed on a stark white background, alludes to the silver emulsion used in film and photographic negatives and to the Silver Screen of cinema. Warhol saw silver as the future, it felt galactic, astronauts wore silver suits and maybe more than anything, silver signified narcissism as mirrors were backed with silver.

In this work, Warhol developed the artistic technique and subject matter that was to cement him foremost amongst the legends of Pop Art. It demonstrates Warhol's silkscreen process in all its infinite detail and subtle allure. The incredible tonal range he achieved in this work, so complemented by the seductively flickering imagery and intense subject matter, promises a lasting testament to the Silver Screen and the legend of Dracula. Just as the kiss of a vampire promises eternal life in death, Warhol gave the legend of The Kiss (Bela Lugosi) artistic immortality in a creation that stands solidly as one of his finest and most powerful works.