As a celebrity, Beyoncé has a personal life that can’t be fully personal; whether she consents or not, it is content for the public’s consumption. As a particularly brilliant celebrity, Beyoncé has leaned into this fact in a way that bolsters her mystique while maintaining privacy. If biographical tidbits are bound to be as scrutinized as her actual art is, she seems to say, then such tidbits should be as meticulously presented as her art is. In fact, they should actually be art.
Her Wednesday announcement that she’s pregnant with twins was fated to break the internet however it was delivered. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s first child, Blue Ivy, is an adorable cultural icon at age 5, the subject of both memes and conspiracy theories demonstrating the obsession that greets any offspring of two extremely famous people. The worshipful reverence for Beyoncé among her fans, combined with the rarity (and mythological significance!) of twins, makes the announcement of two more children particularly chatter-causing.
She could have made like lots of stars and sold her info to a tabloid. She could have made like the Beyoncé of 2011 and revealed her baby bump at the end of an awards-show performance. Instead, she released a self portrait that, within hours, became the most-liked Instagram post ever.
What do you see when you look at the image of her seated in front of a colorful wreath, on a bed of ivy, wearing a bra and a veil? My first thoughts were of the Virgin Mary—Our Lady of Guadalupe, Renaissance Madonnas. But others viewers have mentioned Dutch flower paintings, Frida Kahlo, Gustav Klimt’s Hope, II. There are more modern references: Kehinde Wiley, Mickalene Thomas, a family portrait taken by a mall photo studio in 1998. It’s recent and yet classical. Themes about motherhood and blooming life and femininity are right on the surface. The colors, the composition, and the content make it hard to look away.