Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was created in 1985 and forms a part of Andy Warhol's celebrated series from that year, Reigning Queens. This consisted of portraits of four female monarchs in their own right, rather than those married to a King: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Ntombi laTfwala of Swaziland and Queen Beatrix, who in turn had succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana. (Queen Ntombi laTfwala was in fact regent in 1985, holding power for her son, the Crown Prince, before he came of age; however, she remains the Joint Head of State, or Ndlovukati ('Great She-Elephant'), to this day.) It is a tribute to the importance of this picture that it was formerly in the collection of 'Baby' Jane Holzer, one of the great Muses and collectors of Pop. An heiress who became one of Warhol's greatest Superstars during her time in his famous Factory, Holzer remained a friend of his and a prominent collector of his work from that time onwards.
As the King of Pop, it was only natural that Warhol should turn to these celebrated queens as his subjects. Early in his career, Warhol had taken the dollar bill as a source, as well as the various starlets and celebrities of his day; now, he was taking people whose features were reproduced on the currency of their nations, as is still the case with all of the European heads of state in the series. Just like Chairman Mao a decade and a half earlier, Warhol was selecting source material that was already prevalent, yet unlike the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, these women perfectly encapsulated the fairytale glamour that so enthralled Warhol within the world of celebrity and the international aristocracy to which his own fame had given him access.
Clearly, looking at Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, there is a great contrast between the more standard realm of reverent royal portraiture and Warhol's own adaptation of that genre: here, Queen Beatrix is presented in cool lilac shades that relate more to the world of disco and Studio 54 than to the regal sphere of the Dutch monarch. She is presented as a glamorous neon-streaked figure staring out from the picture surface, revealing Warhol's own ironic transformation. This was all the more the case because of the title of the series of which Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands forms a part: the notion of Reigning Queens manages to play with words, relating the pictures to Warhol's earlier series of Drag Queens and indeed to the Weather Girl's famous 1982 hit, It's Raining Men. In this way, Warhol has managed to carry out the great process of leveling that distinguishes so much of his artistic output: he has deliberately and light-heartedly included the Queen of the Netherlands in his vast Pop pantheon alongside the artists, stars, transvestites and socialites who fill his pictures, aligning her with the broad sweep of popular culture which he had made his own realm.