Safe Haven: A Rare and ‘Abandoned’ Portrait of Princess Diana Is on Exhibit - Arts & Culture

Over the 30 sittings it took to complete the painting, Princess Diana considered the artist’s studio her “safe haven.”

Last January, a rare portrait of Princess Diana from 1994 sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $201,600, well-over its pre-sale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. 

Now, the oil painting by American artist Nelson Shanks will be on display at the London-based art gallery Philip Mould & Company. The piece capturing the “authentic expressions” of the People’s Princess will complete their Masterpiece London Art Fair from 30 June to 6 July.

READ ALSO: Crowning Glory: The Tiara Princess Diana Wore On Her Wedding Day Will Be Exhibited To Celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee

Place of solace

Diana forged a friendship with Shanks, as it took over 30 sittings and 35 hours to finish the painting. “I do miss you and Leona in London, as coming to the Studio was a safe haven, so full of support and love,” Diana wrote in a letter addressed to the artist and his wife, as per Sotheby’s.

The piece is considered rare, given it was an “abandoned” option from a series of paintings done for an official royal portrait. “Partly by accident, I think this is one of the most significant Royal portraits done in the 20th century,” the gallery’s owner and art dealer Philip Mould said in a commentary. 

“[When it was painted in 1994], Princess Diana had gone [to the sittings] almost as a form of refuge, as a sanctuary. There, they produced an official portrait that can now be seen at Althorp. “But this was the first idea. You can see possibly it was abandoned because it gives much more than your average Royal image ever could,” Mould added.

Image from @philip_mould_gallery on Instagram.

Art and friendship

In one aspect of the image, we see Diana’s head turning appeal outfitted in a Catherine Walker dress. On the other hand, Mould notes it wasn’t selected as the official portrait due its emotional nature.

“The feeling of pathos, an indication of turmoil, through which was going at this stage [of her life],” he said.

Before going up for auction, it hung in London’s Kensington Palace, where the Princess resided until she died in 1997. Kensington Palace is now where her oldest son, Prince William, currently lives with his wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their children, Prince George, Prince Louis, and Princess Charlotte. 

The portrait, which Shanks created just three years before Diana’s passing, was later moved to her ancestral home in Althorp, Northamptonshire. 

In 2015, Shanks died at 77 years old due to prostate cancer. He left a legacy of painting world leaders such as US Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, including Pope John Paul II and Queen Silvia of Sweden, most of whom he befriended as well. 

 “Because I’m painting friends, their humanity is very much in the forefront,” He told the art blog, Creativity Matters, in 2013. “They are part of the process, and they see what I’m doing the whole way. And I think they really, really gain from it.”

Banner photo from @philip_mould_gallery on Instagram.

Shop for LIFESTYLE ASIA’S magazines through these platforms.
Download LIFESTYLE ASIA’s digital magazines from:
Subscribe via [email protected]