Rare painting of Princess Diana sells for over R3 million

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A rare painting of Princess Diana sold for an unexpected price at Sotheby’s recently. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)
A rare painting of Princess Diana sold for an unexpected price at Sotheby’s recently. (PHOTO: Gallo Images/Getty Images)

In a sign of her enduring legacy, a rare portrait of the late Princess Diana has sold for $201 600 (about R3,1 million), over 10 times the expected price.

The oil painting, which was sold by Sotheby’s, was done by the late American artist Nelson Shanks in 1994, three years before the royal’s untimely death.

It was expected to fetch $20 000 (around R311 000), according to the auction house, but demand was so great the price soared.

(PHOTO: Facebook/Nelson Shanks)
The artwork showed the princess in a green halter-neck dress by Catherine Walker. (PHOTO: Facebook/Nelson Shanks)

It was sold as part of an auction of Shanks’ collection, which included portraits of former US presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. The People’s Princess reportedly sat for 35 hours for the commissioned painting, which saw her wearing a green dress by British designer Catherine Walker.

The auction house describes the final portrait as reflecting “the emotional toll of Diana's public life in the mid-1990s, but also her inner-resilience”.

It originally hung in Kensington Palace before moving to her ancestral home in Althorp in England where her brother, Charles Spencer, lives.

Shanks painted a second full-length version of the portrait of Diana from memory in 2010. He died in 2015 aged 77 from prostate cancer.

Diana became friendly with Shanks and his wife, Leona, and in 1994 wrote him a letter saying she missed their sittings in the UK.

“I do miss you and Leona in London, as coming to the studio was a safe haven, so full of support and love,” she wrote, according to Sotheby's.

At the time of the commission, Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles had fallen apart.

The following year she gave her bombshell BBC interview with Martin Bashir in which she revealed there “were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded”, referring to Charles’ now-wife, Camilla Parker Bowles.


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