Queen Beatrix 340 by Andy Warhol is a striking portrait from the artist’s 1985 Reigning Queens series. While the Pop artist displayed an open fascination with celebrity throughout his career, he also focused on political figures like Mao Zedong, Richard Nixon and Jackie Kennedy. No one of influence was off the table. This time, Warhol chose to draw attention to women in power. In addition to Queen Beatrix, this collection includes Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. Though he believed few Americans would identify with the series, Warhol’s attraction towards royalty was an extension of his study of fame.
At two years old, “Trix” Wilhelmina Armgard fled from the Netherlands with her family to evade Nazi occupation. After World War II ended in 1945, they were finally able to return to their home country. In 1961 Beatrix graduated from Leiden University, where she attained a degree in politics. However, she would not take the throne until her mother Juliana abdicated in 1981. At the time of her coronation there was a great deal of unrest among Dutch citizens due to the exorbitant cost of the event. Nevertheless, Beatrix eventually gained the respect of her people and became an exceptionally popular queen. Warhol’s Queen Beatrix 340 shows the monarch at the start of her rule; when he created the print, she was only a few years into her reign.
Beatrix remains one of the richest royals in the world. This was not something Warhol would miss as he often spoke about a love of money himself. Consequently, Queen Beatrix 340 magnifies the queen’s opulence and wealth. In this print Warhol colored her skin pale blue, a shade that matched her jewels. Blocks of pink, yellow and lime green frame Beatrix’s face, her expression one of poise and composure. In the press photo, Beatrix aims her gaze directly at the camera, donning a confident smile. However, what stands out most is the silver crown atop the ruler’s head. The ornate accessories she wears symbolize her prestige, and through them Warhol accentuated her status, glamour and strength.
Warhol was disappointed in the opening of his Reigning Queens series, calling it “lowdown and tacky.” “[The prints] were supposed to be only for Europe—nobody here cares about royalty and it’ll just be another bad review,” he lamented in his diary. Warhol’s observation is somewhat surprising considering that four years prior to the release of his portfolio, Diana Spencer was crowned Princess of Wales. Her worldwide popularity in the 1980’s inspired a fascination with royalty in America that remains to this day. Therefore, the Reigning Queens screen prints continued to gain recognition over time. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth even obtained one of Warhol’s portraits of her for England’s official Royal Collection.
Queen Beatrix 340 embodies a moment in time marked by the reign of empowered women. Warhol’s work in this series represents a high point in his career and highlights the artist’s interest in celebrity beyond the shores of America.