Lot 7
  • 7

Andy Warhol

35,000 - 50,000 GBP
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  • Andy Warhol
  • Alexander the Great 
  • signed Andy Warhol in pencil (lower right); numbered 14/25 (lower right)
  • screenprint in colours on Lenox Museum Board, with the Andy Warhol Copyright stamp verso
  • sheet: 100.3 by 100.3cm., 39 1/2 by 39 1/2 in.
  • Executed in 1982.


Frayda Feldman and Jörg Schellmann, Andy Warhol Prints, A Catalogue Raisonné, 1962-1987, Milan, 2003, no. II.292


The full sheet printed to the edges, in good condition apart from the occasional minor scuff mark in the red, a diagonal hairline scratch and broken handling crease towards lower left edge, two minute pigment losses (printing flaws?) in lower background, two minute adhesions in left background, further areas of pigment loss at extreme sheet edges, creasing at upper right tip of sheet, fingermarks along left and right sheet edge, the verso with handling marks and pale water-staining at upper sheet edge, framed.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

In 1983, under commission for the Searching for Alexander exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Warhol created a screenprint of the Greek emperor Alexander the Great. The print depicts the victorious leader in harsh profile, gazing into the distance against a blood red background. By the 1980s Warhol had begun to apply the same graphic language he had used to create his iconic celebrity portraits to the motifs of Art History. For Warhol, this was a revolutionary step towards tradition. While he left twentieth-century pop culture behind and turned his hand to the past, he continued to explore one central theme: the cult of the celebrity. This is evident in Alexander the Great, where even centuries after the emperor’s death, his image stands as a symbol of Greek power and elegance. By commissioning a plethora of portraits, the emperor had ensured that his harsh brow and flowing locks were well documented so that centuries later his image remained instantly recognisable.

The commission for Warhol’s print came from Alexander Iolas, who was nicknamed Alexander the Great. The image bears a striking resemblance to de Chirico’s portrait of Iolas from his years as a young dancer. The two portraits depict noble and elegant Greek faces, with the same heavy brow and lion-like manes gazing off to some unknown challenge.

Warhol and Iolas met in New York in 1945 when the young illustrator was just 17. By 1952, Iolas, then the director of the Hugo Gallery, gave Warhol his first gallery show: ‘Fifteen Drawings based on the writings of Truman Capote”. Soon Iolas owned several galleries in New York, Paris, Milan, Rome and Athens, and Warhol became a celebrated household name, and so began the era of the mega gallery and the celebrity artist. The two shared in their success and established themselves as indispensable figures in New York’s blossoming art scene. Both men recognised the power of personality, and the power of appearance. They ran within the same social circles, and both navigated high and low society with ease. In Bob Colacello’s words “In many ways Iolas and Andy were two of a kind, they shared the same high camp sensibility, an awareness and delight of the absurdity of existence”.  It was fitting that Iolas was the commissioner of this portrait of Alexander the Great, which in a sense constitutes one of Warhol’s greatest explorations into the power of the portrait and the effect of self-image: something both the artist and Iolas were acutely aware of.

The Alexander the Great screenprint was not the only collaboration between the artist and gallerist. Iolas can be seen in a 1972 diptych portrait, where he fades and appears through smudges of silver acrylic paint. Again, in 1974, Warhol immortalised Iolas in a portrait, highlighted with accents of royal blue; Iolas, shrouded with a sense of grace, stares straight at the viewer. The two continued to work together closely until their deaths, only months apart in 1987. Just as Iolas hosted Warhol’s first gallery exhibition, he would also host his last, commissioning a series of works, coincidentally but somewhat poetically based on Da Vinci’s the Last Supper. In Adrian Dannatt’s words “Andy worked with many other dealers, but Iolas had a special place.”