Andy Warhol
andy warhol double mona lisa (1978)
Andy Warhol Foundation

Double Mona Lisa
Andy Warhol

silkscreen inks on paper
34 1/4 x 45 3/8 in.

Stamped 'Andy Warhol Enterprises, Inc. 1978' (lower left) with the Andy Warhol Estate stamp (on the reverse).

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In 1978 after several years of painting numerous commissioned celebrity portraits of the rich and famous Warhol returned to a theme which he had first tackled very briefly in 1963 - Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.

The Mona Lisa was a perfect image for Warhol to appropriate. As the most famous work of art in the world it has become the ultimate icon and is instantly recognisable as a priceless commodity. At the same time, in contemporary terms the Mona Lisa herself is a female celebrity whose iconic status clearly rivals those three Warholian graces of the 1960s - Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy.

Indeed, it was the aura of celebrity that Warhol witnessed in the fanfare and security surrounding the arrival in New York of the Mona Lisa in 1962 that first prompted him to incorporate Leonardo's often-copied masterpiece into his own work. Following in the footsteps of his mentor Marcel Duchamp, Warhol subordinated the famous painting to accord with his own unique vision of the world. Reproducing the painting thirty times in his now legendary silkscreen painting provacatively entitled, Thirty are Better than One, Warhol made a clear statement about the role of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction by showing the greatest painting in the world as a flat and infinitely reproducible image very much in the vein of his coca-cola bottles or his dollar bills.

Using as his model the reproductions of the Mona Lisa from a brochure issued by the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the painting was hung during its visit to the United States, Warhol experimented with two distinct formats; a full-length version - as shown in Thirty are better than One and a cropped versison showing just the Mona Lisa's head in a manner similar to the celebrity portrait shots he used for his paintings of Marilyn, Liz and Jackie.

Double Mona Lisa employs this format in the bold and simple black and white style of his 1963 paintings. In this work, however, Warhol has left an area of white space empty at the bottom of the page in order to emphasise the flat reproducibility of the image. This quality is added to by the clear difference between the two images, a difference that suggests that they were both created from one inkloaded screen pulled twice over the page resulting in the dark left-hand image and the lighter right-hand one.

Text Source: Christie's London Property from an Important Private Collection, Thursday 27 June 2002

Further Reading: Andy Warhol Prints: A Catalogue Raisonne

Further Reading: Andy Warhol Commerce Into Art Hardcover Book (1990).

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Andy Warhol
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