Queen Beatrix 339 by Andy Warhol is a portrait from the Reigning Queens portfolio published in 1985. The series depicts sixteen portraits of ruling queens of the time. Included in this series are Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Warhol captured the queens as individual rulers, rather than women who married a king. Warhol’s portraits for male leaders such as Mao Zedong, Alexander The Great, and Vladimir Lenin use bold colors rather soft colors for feminine portraits. However, this print incorporates both soft and bold elements. His portraits of male political leaders depict them as intimidating, serious men. In Reigning Queens he played on his subjects’ mystique and femininity. In his later series, Reigning Queens (Royal Edition), he accented these portraits with diamond dust to further emphasize the elegance of the queens.
Surprisingly, Warhol did not want this series to be shown in America. In fact, he became infuriated with George Mulder, a print publisher, for showing the portfolio. Warhol expressed his frustration in his diary. “I had my opening at Leo Castelli’s to go to, of the Reigning Queens portfolio that I just hate George Mulder for showing here in America. They were supposed to be only for Europe—nobody here cares about royalty and it’ll be another bad review”. Written in 1985.
Unlike some of the other portraits in the Reigning Queens series, such as Queen Margrethe II, Queen Beatrix isn’t wearing any extravagant jewelry aside from the crown. Instead, she dons a sash and a pendant, and diverges from Warhol’s typical glamorous style. He uses similar colors for the background and her skin tone, almost washing out the subject itself. But, he strategically used red highlighting to bring attention to the objects that signify the powerful position the queen holds. The three areas that capture the viewer’s attention the most are the sash, the queen’s hair, and ultimately her crown. The perfectly kept hair brings a sense of elegance and femininity to the portrait. Meanwhile, the sash and the crown remind the viewer that she is a powerful figure who rules a nation.
In Queen Beatrix 339, the use of warm reds and oranges makes the print reminiscent of Warhol’s other political portraits. Rather than using soft colors to represent the Queen’s femininity, the warm colors signify that she is a powerful ruler. Fame and beauty fascinated Warhol, and he was particularly intrigued by feminine power. Queen Beatrix 339 shows Warhol at his most elegant and sensitive, and he published the complete portfolio during one of his most successful moments.