On display in London, “extraordinarily rare” Diana portrait
There will be a public debut this weekend for a recently sold rare auction-winning portrait of the late Princess Diana.
Three years before Diana’s death in Paris, Nelson Shanks completed an oil sketch as a preparatory study for a formal full-length portrait. At a Sotheby’s auction in January, it sold for $201,600, more than ten times the estimate.
It appears that the late princess, who has her eyes lowered, is meditating in her study. According to a press release that came from Philip Mould & Company, the London-based gallery showing the rare and beautiful work at the Masterpiece London Art Fair from 30 June to 6 July, the sketch was actually one of several used to capture “authentic expressions” that would ultimately be used as a source material for the final portrait.
She’s wearing a Catherine Walker green velvet halter dress, which was originally chosen by Shanks for a Vanity Fair spread in June 1997. A more conservative white blouse and blue skirt would be used for the final photograph. Diana’s family home which is in Althorp, about 90 miles northwest of London, and Kensington Palace both displayed it.
At Shanks’ London studio, it took over 30 sittings to complete the portrait. Diana found solace in those sessions when her marriage to Prince Charles was in disarray. Leona, the artist’s wife, and she became close friends, and she later wrote in a letter that she felt “safe and supported” when she came to the studio.
For his portraits, Shanks was renowned around the world, painting the likes of US President Reagan, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, and Pope John Paul II. The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, houses his official portrait of Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States.
“As royal painted portraits go, it is extraordinarily rare for an artist to capture both the public and private character simultaneously,” Phillip Mould mentioned in the press release.
“Shank’s sketch uniquely fuses Diana’s glamour with the affecting pathos of her final years. We felt it belonged in a British collection and are delighted to be able to display it in her home city,” he added.