Andy Warhol Saint Apollonia Portfolio (F & S II.330 - 333)Facts | History | Meaning
Catalogue Title Saint Apollonia (F & S II.330 - 333) Year 1984 Size 30″ x 22″ 76,2 cm x 55,9 Medium (4) Screenprints on Essex Offset Kid Finished Paper Edition 250, 35 AP, 8 PP, 80 individual TP not in portfolios, 20 individual TP not in portfolios numbered in Roman numerals.
Andy Warhol Saint Apollonia (F & S II.330 - 333)Meaning & History
"Apollonia, however, gives this suffering a religious fervor that ultimately compels a consideration of Warhol’s work though a Catholic Lens."
Saint Apollonia is a portfolio of four screenprints executed by Warhol in 1984, of the Virgin Martyr Apollonia. These works offer a brilliant and rare explicit insight into the artists’s Catholic upbringing and the profound impact it had on Warhol. Each print appropriates an image from an altarpiece originally by Pierro Del Francesco, where Apollonia faces the viewer directly, holding a tooth in her tongs. Francesco’s original mosaic-like panel backgound have been retouched in dramatic Pop colours.
The story of Appollonia is one characterised by suffering and sacrifice. According to original allegory, during an uprising against Christianity her and others were tortured in Alexandria, with her teeth being pulled out. Suffering and tragedy is a theme that is seen time and time again in Warhol’s ouevre – most notably, in his Death and Disaster series, where he solely focussed on tragic accidents and the dark and disturbing. Appollonia, however, gives this suffering a religious fervor that ultimately compels a consideration of Warhol’s work though a Catholic Lens. The artist’s mother, Julia Warhola, would take her sons to mass three times on Sunday, and he became extremely familiar with icons. His biographer Bob Colacello holds the opinion that ‘all his most really important works were icons – figures to be venerated’. Appollonia, though, is thus a literal and metaphorical icon, whereby Warhol has borrowed directly from ecclesiastical history and gives it contemporary meaning. Perhaps the artist felt, just as Marilyn had tragedically died surrounded by a media circus, that Apollonia represented a similar kind of female suffering.
Warhol’s examination of matryrdom is a contemporary one as the artist, though raised Catholic, had a a complex relationship with faith. Warhol had met Pope John II in 1980 during this period, but was open about his homosexuality. Ultimately, one sees the Catholic imagination in the artist’s work rather than a proclaimation of faith: guilt, suffering, death and sacrifice are both religious and human afflictions that existed as much in Warhol’s day as they did in second century Alexandria. With works such as the present portraits, according to art historian john Richardson, ‘knowledge of this secret piety inevitably changes our perception of an artist who fooled the world into believing that his only obsessions were money, fame, glamour’.
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