Queen Beatrix 341 by Andy Warhol is a screen print included in the artist’s Reigning Queens portfolio. Warhol completed the series in 1985, during the last few years of his life. It is also his largest portfolio, consisting of 16 prints. As his largest series, Warhol created Reigning Queens during one of his most financially successful moments.
“Leo Lerman called in the afternoon and commissioned a portrait for Vogues one-time-use only of Queen Elizabeth,” (Warhol, 1977, The Andy Warhol Diaries.) 8 years later, Warhol would produce his Reigning Queens series. He presented them as a portfolio of sixteen, consisting of four portraits of four different monarchs.
The subjects that Warhol focused on in his Reigning Queens series were Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland and Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Warhol turned these images into screenprints based on official photographs. He then overlaid his signature abstract blocks of color to create the sense of modernism present in his pop-art. Warhol separated printed elements to highlight jewelry in the photographs. These portraits are large and filled with bright colors, reflecting the position and power of the queens.
Warhol also created a “royal edition” of Reigning Queens which incorporated diamond dust. The by-product of the manufacture of industrial-grade diamonds, the dust in the royal edition gives the prints an extravagant effect.
While one of Warhol’s main inspirations was consumerism, his subjects were also often celebrities. During Warhol’s later years, instead of focusing on entertainment stars, such as the infamous Marilyn Monroe, he decided to create work based on a different kind of celebrity: the royal power. Along with queens, Warhol had an interest in political leaders, such as John F. Kennedy, Vladimir Lenin, and Mao Zedong.
“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 just be another bad review”. Warhol derived much of his work from American Pop Culture, but his catalogue also relates individualism and other social issues. Warhol focused on icons of royalty who ruled without a marriage as a symbol of female power and autonomy.
These prints also present Warhol’s interest in mass media and repetition, which are a huge part of Warhol’s style. The repetition in Reigning Queens brings the eye to focus on each part of the queen with color guidance and collage techniques. Queen Beatrix 341 is still relevant today, as three of the four Queens in the portfolio still hold power.