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A portrait of the late Princess Diana has sold for more than 10 times its expected sale price, Sotheby’s auction house announced. The oil piece, titled “Diana, Princess of Wales,” was painted in 1994 by the late American artist Nelson Shanks. Sotheby’s said it was expected to fetch up to $20,000 but it sold for $201,600. 

The rare painting is a head study of Diana that was created during the start of her full-length portrait. Artists sometimes use head studies to perfect the emotions and perspectives of their subject’s face. 

“Diana, Princess of Wales” portrait by  Nelson Shanks. 


While the picture shows the princess with the same “downcast eyes” and a “thoughtful expression” included in her full length-portrait, her green halter dress was later changed to a white blouse for the final, larger project, according to Sotheby’s. 

The full portrait, which hung in Kensington Palace before being moved to her original home in Althorp in Northamptonshire, reflects  “the emotional toll of Diana’s public life in the mid-1990s, but also her inner resilience,” Sotheby’s said. 

Princess Diana sitting for Nelson Shanks at Title Street Studio in London, 1994. 


Diana, Shanks and his wife Leona became close friends during her time sitting for her portrait. In a 1994 letter addressed to the couple, Diana wrote: “I do miss you and Leona in London, as coming to the Studio was a safe haven, so full of support and love.”

Three years after sending that letter, Diana died in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36. 

Shanks was commissioned to create a full-length portrait of the late Princess of Wales in the late 90s, which required several in-person sessions where the princess sat for over 35 hours.   

The artist is perhaps best known for his official portrait of former U.S President Bill Clinton, which includes a shadow of Monica Lewinsky’s famous blue Gap dress.