Queen Margrethe II 342 by Andy Warhol is a portrait from the Reigning Queens series published in 1985. The series includes sixteen portraits of reigning queens at 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 for who they were as individuals, not just as married royal women. Warhol’s portraits for male leaders such as Mao Zedong and Jimmy Carter use bold colors rather than the soft colors used in Queen Margrethe II 342. 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.
Even though the subjects in this series are royalty, Warhol presents them as celebrities similar to his other works. While he used softer colors for Queen Margrethe 342, she is still represented in the same Pop Art style that Warhol’s work embodies.
However, Warhol’s use of colorful patches throughout the portrait changes up his usual technique. Here, he adds some elements of collage in the screen print. These patches add a new element to the series, making these portraits slightly different than his usual depictions. These patches are strategically placed to bring your attention to the jewelry that Queen Margrethe II is wearing. He then used similar colors for the background and her skin tone to wash out her face. This draws your eyes towards the jewelry, reminding the viewer that she isn’t just a celebrity, but a royal.
Along with the patches, the use of highlights in the Queen’s hair further emphasizes the elegance of the subject. This brings our attention to the perfectly styled hair, and ultimately to the crown itself. The crown is the most evident detail in all the portraits in Reigning Queens that these are not celebrities, but powerful monarchs who rule over nations.
- The first official photograph of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark after her ascension to the throne in 1972. Courtesy of the Hulton and Getty archives.
- Andy Warhol signing an offset lithograph that was issued for the promotion of the print of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Unknown photographer.