It’s not a secret that Andy Warhol was obsessed with fame and celebrity—especially when the famous person in question’s life was piqued with tragedy.
Ludwig van Beethoven turns 250 this year, and the celebrations are many, especially in Vienna, where he first rose to fame. But as we all know, his success was marred by a tragic slide into deafness, at the height of his creative powers. So it is little wonder that Warhol would have taken up a fascination with the anguished composer—but few knew he had actually created a set of prints in homage, very similar in style to his famous screenprints of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, et al (notice the tragedy pattern?).
Now Sotheby’s London will be putting that same set of Beethoven portraits on the block, as part of its Prints & Multiples sale on March 19. What’s most intriguing is that the quartet was created not in the ’60s or ’70s, but actually just before Andy’s death in 1987. Based on an iconic portrait by Karl Stieler, he intensified the image by superimposing notes from the beloved “Moonlight Sonata.”
“Complete sets of Warhol’s portraits of Beethoven hardly ever come up for auction,” explains Severine Nackers, Head of Sotheby’s Prints Department in London, “and are highly desirable. So we are thrilled to have the opportunity in this anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth to showcase all four works together. Just as Beethoven was a towering figure during his lifetime, immortalized ever since through his music, Warhol’s iconic image-making process bestows the composer with rock star status.”
The complete set of portraits is expected to fetch between £200,000-300,000 at auction—but as we have come to expect, Warhol’s seemingly intractable popularity with collectors, and the excitement around the 250th birthday celebration, may tick the final price up a bit.
For Ludwig lovers planning to visit the British capital, the city’s Southbank Centre is presenting a year-long tribute to the composer’s life and music.