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Portrait of Crown Princess Sonja

In 1982, Andy Warhol produced several portraits of Her Majesty Queen Sonja in connection with the Queen’s visit to the artist’s studio in New York.

The portraits of Queen Sonja, who was Crown Princess at the time, are part of the extensive series known as The Celebrity Portraits.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (1928-1987) was one of the most prominent representatives of American pop culture, creating works that many consider to be icons of 20th century art. Even those who are not art aficionados are likely to have seen or heard about the series entitled Campbell’s Soup Cans, Disasters and Marilyns (portraits of Marilyn Monroe).

An international celebrity in his own right, Warhol was also one of the most productive portrait artists in contemporary times. It is estimated that he created some 800 portraits during a period of just over 25 years, from 1961 until his death in 1987. The portrait genre comprised the majority of his work.

Warhol created likenesses of authors, designers, artists, criminals, royalty, politicians and athletes. He sometimes worked on commission and sometimes chose to depict contemporary personalities in connection with special events. In 1964, for example, following the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy, he painted a number of portraits of the President’s widow, Jackie.


For the most well-known portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor, Warhol used existing photographs such as official studio stills or pictures from newspapers. For commissioned works, he or one of his assistants took the photographs themselves. He used a photograph as the basis for virtually all of his portraits. The photo was transferred to the canvas through the process of silk screening, which gave the portrait a monochromatic appearance and highlighted the outlines and contours. This simplified the face of the model, creating an image reminiscent of an icon. Silk screening was primarily used as a commercial reproduction method until Warhol introduced it in his art.

Warhol created portraits of other royal personages, such as Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which were part of the series entitled Reigning Queens from 1985. Usually portraits of royalty were based on official photographs. Very few royalty sat as models for the legendary artist, but those who did include Her Royal Highness Princess Caroline of Monaco and Her Majesty Queen Sonja.

Meeting with Warhol

Queen Sonja herself has described her meeting with Warhol as a surreal experience. “He was small and thin, and quite pale with an unusual hair style…He received us as if he were a king, and celebrity guests came and went, like a royal court. He was truly a respected man. He was pleasant, but taciturn and reserved, perhaps a little shy” (Brun, Hans-Jakob, Impulser (“Impulses”) p. 106-107).

Three of the photographs taken by the artist of the Crown Princess during her visit are currently part of the collection at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The portraits of Crown Princess Sonja

The portrait series Crown Princess Sonja consists of six paintings in different colour combinations. Each portrait is 103x103 cm, which is the size of most of Warhol’s works in this genre. Several copies within a series are also common in Warhol’s work. One of these copies was usually kept in Warhol’s collection. According to the artist’s wishes, the contents of this archive were later established as the Andy Warhol Foundation. One of the portraits of Queen Sonja was recently sold from this collection.

Today most of the portraits of Queen Sonja are privately owned, but two of them are on display at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and the Astrid Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, respectively.

Silk-screen print and acrylic on canvas

103 x 103 cm

Inventory number



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