LONDON — Sotheby’s is marking the Platinum Jubilee with a portrait exhibition of Queen Elizabeth II, and her six female predecessors, part of a two-week series of special shows and cultural events at the London auction house.
The show of Britain’s seven queens will feature works ranging from the famous Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I, in all her pearly and beribboned splendor, to portraits by Andy Warhol and Chris Levine of Elizabeth II.
The Armada Portrait, on loan from the Woburn Abbey collection, commemorates a key moment of Elizabeth I’s reign: the failed invasion of England by the Spanish Armada in 1588.
The Woburn Abbey art collection is well known here and includes masterpieces by Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto, Reynolds, Gainsborough and Rembrandt.
Sotheby’s describes the Armada Portrait as being a “spectacle of female power and majesty” and noted that it was the Tudors, the dynasty to which Elizabeth I belonged, who brought the importance of royal imagery, and the cult of personality, to the fore.
Other portraits in the show have been loaned from aristocratic collections and important country houses across the U.K., Sotheby’s said.
The Andy Warhol portrait hails from the 1980s and shows the queen as a 20th-century celebrity: the source image for the work is the official photographic portrait taken in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, a decade prior. It was part of Warhol’s series known as “Reigning Queens.”
The exhibition will also showcase portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, Queen Victoria, Queen Anne, Mary I and Mary II.
Sotheby’s described the Platinum Jubilee as a “momentous cultural moment,” marking the monarch’s 70 years on the throne, and said the planned events will peak with the summer sales at the auction house.
The Platinum Jubilee celebratory weekend is set to take place in Britain from June 2 to 5, and the Sotheby’s events will run from May 28 to June 15.
Sotheby’s said the May and June events will encompass the “visual, performing, literary and culinary arts; provide a platform for the next generation of artists, and showcase the breadth, diversity and excellence of British creativity.”
Sotheby’s is planning a non-selling exhibition of noble and aristocratic jewels with a focus on tiaras with British and European royal provenance.
The show will chart the history of the tiara from the late 18th century, when it was made fashionable by Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Joséphine, in emulation of ancient Greek and Roman wearers.
Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, advanced the tiara trend as part of his wider interest in the art and engineering of jewelry. He designed four tiaras for Queen Victoria.
Sotheby’s said the tiaras on view will follow the evolution of tiara design, “prompted by monarchic taste, societal and economic shifts and influence from other art forms.”
The show will include a tiara from the 1830s, designed as a wreath of diamond-set leaves in homage to the classical designs of ancient Rome, and a turquoise cabochon and diamond tiara by Van Cleef & Arpels crafted in the 1960s.
Sotheby’s said that while visitors cannot purchase the royal tiaras in the show, they will be able to buy designs from a new generation of contemporary British designers.
As part of the project Sotheby’s is partnering with a number of Britain’s heritage brands and institutions, including Chatsworth House, home to the Devonshire family.
Chatsworth will be collaborating with Sotheby’s Restaurant, where the Jubilee menus will feature food from the family’s estate in Derbyshire, England, including lamb, fresh produce from the kitchen gardens, gin cocktails and locally sourced ingredients from across the Derbyshire Dales.