Queen Ntombi Twala of Swaziland is a series of four prints by Andy Warhol from his Reigning Queens series. Warhol released the portfolio in 1985, two years before his death. Reigning Queens is one of Warhol’s largest and most iconic portfolios, with sixteen silkscreen prints. The portfolio also features Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Beatrix, and Queen Margrethe II, all of which are beloved by collectors and considered some of Warhol’s most notable works.
Queen Ntombi Twala is the current ruling monarch of Eswatini (present day Swaziland), a country near the east coast of South Africa. She took the throne in 1986, although when Andy Warhol published the series, in 1985, she was queen regent. At the time, it was unsure how long she would rule. She was finally coronated in April of 1986, and still rules Eswatini to this day at 72 years old. Ntombi Twala is an important addition to the series; she is the only Queen of color featured.
Fame, celebrity, and the concept of money all fascinated Warhol. He also had a keen fascination for mass production and media. These pictures were often produced on stamps and currency, further alluding to his interest in mass consumption and the repetitive nature of things. Moreover, his Reigning Queens collection expresses his interest in female icons. Prior to the series, he depicted many female celebrities, such as Marylin Monroe and Liz Taylor. But Warhol’s admiration for iconic women clearly did not stop at the boundaries of typical celebrities—as Reigning Queens shows, Warhol also held much interest in powerful global figures. In fact, Warhol’s art did much to expand our concept of celebrity itself, and ultimately, he championed the pop-art movement by re-imagining all kinds of objects, figures, and images in a way that added to their symbolic power.
Warhol displays his mastery of screen printing in this series by incorporating intricate color blocking and outlining, which we see developed in its full form in his works from the 1980s. Specifically, he seems to use color blocking to highlight the Queens’ jewelry and crown, drawing our attention to the adornments that remind us of the prestige they hold and that separates them from the other “celebrities” in his canon.