Queen Elizabeth II: 336 by Andy Warhol is a screenprint included in the Reigning Queens portfolio from 1985. The collection contains four prints each of the four female monarchs at the time including Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland, and above, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.
This print in particular displays Queen Elizabeth’s female power with a strikingly bold hot pink background. This background emphasizes her empowering accessories: the gold tiara, necklace, and earrings. In Reigning Queens, Warhol continues to bring life to simplistic images, as he does with ordinary photographs, or common objects like Campbell’s Tomato Soup.
The idea of celebrities and political leaders enthralled Warhol. He created many screenprints of well-known female figures such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor. Besides the four queens, Warhol created portraits of many other political leaders such as John F. Kennedy, Mao Zedong, and his portrait of Jimmy Carter for his presidential campaign.
While Warhol seemed vastly interested in the lives of celebrities, he too wanted to become famous. Warhol once expressed his wishes of becoming “as famous as the Queen of England”. To celebrate her 60th year on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II bought four prints of Warhol’s portraits of her. They are the only portraits she owns in which she did not pose directly for the artwork.
The Reigning Queens collection still holds significance today as three of the four queens are still in power. All four queens depicted in this collection received their power as a result of birthright, not marriage. The portrait Warhol chose for Queen Elizabeth was taken on April 2, 1975, for her Silver Jubilee.
The four Queen Elizabeth II prints show a variety of colors and shapes, leading some collectors to favor certain editions over others. Warhol used his layered screen printing technique to add meticulous details, such as the outlines and the blocks of bright colors. The abstract light pink blocks add another piece of elegance to the print as a whole. Meanwhile, the vibrant background draws the viewer’s attention to the Queen’s deep blue eyes and her light blue sachet. Warhol appropriately chose certain feminine colors to symbolize the Queen’s power and royalty. Overall, the Reigning Queens series strongly evokes Warhol’s fascination for both fame, and feminine power.
In the same year, Warhol created a “Royal Edition” of the Reigning Queen’s series, featuring diamond dust. This added the ultimate Andy Warhol touch to the prints, further emphasizing the beauty and power of the four queens.