Andy Warhol’s 1984 Diana Vreeland Rampant (After Jacques-Louis David, Napoleon At St. Bernard) is a mixed-media collage of Diana Vreeland, former editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. Based on Jacques-Louis David’s 1800 oil on canvas portrait, Napoleon Crossing the Alps or Bonaparte at the St. Bernard Pass, Warhol’s Diana Vreeland Rampant depicts the Vogue editor in profile atop a rearing horse.
Vreeland served as editor-in-chief of Vogue from 1963 through 1971. During her tenure at Vogue, Vreeland encouraged creativity from all of her staff. In 1966, she attempted to run a campaign slogan called, “the year of do it yourself.” Though the slogan was unsuccessful, Vreeland’s desire for the public to play a larger role in establishing fashion trends is indicative of her enduring interest in pushing the boundaries of fashion. Vreeland also discovered Edie Sedgwick, the Warhol Factory Superstar, and maintained a close relationship with Andy Warhol for much of the 1970s.
Diana Vreeland Rampant was completed at the request of Anna Wintour and Isabella Blow as an open-ended commission for Vogue. Warhol completed the original painting in just a few hours the same day Blow requested it. The painting was the centerpiece of André Leon Talley’s story called “Bridled Passion” from the December 1984 edition of Vogue.
For this unique piece, Warhol created the likeness of Vreeland against a white background utilizing silkscreening, collaging, and sketching to complete the piece. His depiction of Vreeland appears over a red silkscreen print of David’s portrait of Napoleon, and he collaged blocks of orange, red, pink, and blue Color-aid paper to obscure Napoleon’s features. Details of the horse, body, and superimposed face of Vreeland appear sketched in a gradient of blue and yellow against the silkscreen and collage base.
By appropriating the powerful imagery of David’s portrait of Napoleon, Warhol portrays Vreeland with the same power and vision. Despite her immense influence on the fashion world, Vreeland was ultimately fired from Vogue after just 9 years as editor. Warhol, however, knew that Vreeland’s influence was far more significant than the title that she lost. He described Vreeland as “the most copied woman in the world,” comparing her to one of his favorite subjects, “a Campbell’s Soup can.” In Diana Vreeland Rampant, Warhol depicts his subject as a pioneer of modern fashion and celebrates her vision and influence with a unique portrait that beautifully captures her commitment to looking beyond the limits of the fashion industry.