Blog Inside Time Capsule 526: A Portrait of King Edward VIII
Time Capsule 526—filled with Andy Warhol’s personal items mostly from 1982—was originally catalogued in October 2012. Recently, The Warhol archives team removed it from storage to get it ready to ship to Marseilles, France, for a Time Capsule exhibition opening December 2014.
When Chief Archivist Matt Wrbican looked through the items while preparing the Time Capsule for the exhibition, a baby studio portrait signed on the verso in fanciful script “HRH the Prince of Wales” and rubberstamped “W. & D. Downey” caught his eye. In the TC526 “class picture,” the little Prince sits, propped up against the box, between two Marilyns.
Andy Warhol’s Time Capsule 526 and its contents, 1982, mixed archival material, Overall (Box): 10 x 18 x 14 in. (25.4 x 45.7 x 35.6 cm.), The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.
The museum’s archives team set out to research the photograph and came across a similar-looking image—a baby boy in the same highchair—on the website of the National Portrait Gallery in London. The boy is identified as King George VI, the younger brother to the baby in Warhol’s image—Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, King Edward VIII, who famously abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry Wallis Simpson. The Gallery confirmed the identification of the baby in the Warhol image and said it was taken just before July 4, 1895, when W. &. D. Downey registered the copyright for the sitting, which included 10 poses, one of which The Gallery has online.
Brothers William and Daniel Downey were among the royal family’s favorite photographers. W. & D. Downey opened its first photography studio in the 1850s in Newcastle before opening a second in London in 1872, actively photographing until the mid-twentieth century.
Andy Warhol, Flowers, 1965 (signed and dedicated in 1967), from Sotheby’s “The Duke and Duchess of Windsor” estate sale catalogue, 1997, Lot 861
It is not known how Warhol came into possession of the photograph, but there are a few connections between the artist and the Duke and Duchess. A Warhol flower painting—reportedly given to The Duchess as a hostess gift by the artist himself in 1967—sold for $39,100 to an anonymous buyer in a 1997 Sotheby’s sale of the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The auction catalogue notes that their library held two books with Warhol’s work: “a Spanish primer illustrated by [him],” which is most certainly Margarita Madrigal’s Magic Key to Spanish (1953), and a copy of the 1975 THE Philosophy of Andy Warhol (from A to B and back again) with the typically terse dedication “Duchess (sic) / love A.W.” Former Warhol superstar Brigid Berlin, a Manhattan socialite and daughter of former Hearst media empire CEO Richard E. Berlin, talked about her parents’ friendship with the royal couple, and Warhol’s work was shown at the Tate Gallery in 1971, in the 1970s at The Mayor Gallery, and at Anthony d’Offay Gallery in 1986, all in London.
Warhol had no shortage of friends in the UK, including rock stars Mick Jagger and Nick Rhodes, heiress Catherine Guinness, photographers Cecil Beaton and David Bailey, and interior designer Nicky Haslam, and we can only assume that one of them played a role in his coming into possession of a baby portrait of a King of England.