Queen Elizabeth II 334 (Trial Proof) by Andy Warhol is part of the Reigning Queens series produced in 1985. The portfolio consists of sixteen screenprints, of which there are 4 Queen Elizabeth prints. Warhol depicts these four female monarchs in their own right, rather than as women who were married to a king. Warhol also completed an accompanying series, titled Reigning Queens (Royal Edition), in which the images were accented with diamond dust. Warhol’s intense pop rendering of Queen Elizabeth displays female empowerment through the use of bright red surrounding the figure. The loud and vivid use of color sparks attention to the subject and creates a solid movement around the portrait drawing attention to her dark brown eyes and gentle facial expression. Yellow is added to accent jewelry pieces Queen Elizabeth displays along with a light blue sash shown sitting on her shoulder. The gradient style composition of color from top to bottom allows the eye to go back and forth between solid and bold color toward the top of the print, to a softer hue at the bottom of the print.
The photograph that Warhol used for the basis of his Queen Elizabeth II prints was taken by Peter Grugeon in 1975 at Windsor Castle, and was released to announce the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. In 2012, the Royal Collection purchased four prints from Warhol’s series, making them the only portraits in the collection for which the Queen did not personally pose for.
Queen Elizabeth II 334 Trial Proof as Part of Andy Warhol’s Larger Body of Work
Completed by Warhol in 1985, the Reigning Queens series includes Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland. Andy Warhol created the Reigning Queens series during the mid-1980s, arguably his most prolific period. During this time, Warhol was forming bonds with a number of younger artists in the New York art scene including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel and David Salle. Warhol saw a re-emergence of critical and financial success during this period of his life.