'Extraordinarily Rare' Portrait of Princess Diana Goes on Public Display for First Time

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Nelson Shanks (1937-2015) Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997)
Nelson Shanks (1937-2015) Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997)

Courtesy of Philip Mould & Company Princess Diana portrait

An "extraordinarily rare" portrait of Princess Diana is going on display in London.

The oil painting, titled Diana, Princess of Wales, was completed by artist Nelson Shanks in 1994 — three years before Diana's tragic death in Paris — and will be featured in Philip Mould & Company's gallery in the British capital until July 6.

In the artwork, the princess is shown wearing a green velvet Catherine Walker halter dress that she wore in the lead-up to her famous 1997 Vanity Fair magazine shoot. Diana later changed into a traditional white blouse and blue skirt for the final image.

Unusually for a royal portrait, it captures the princess looking pensively down at the floor, with a single earring providing a sparkle of light.

RELATED: How Kate Middleton and Prince William Are Modeling Princess Diana's Parenting Style

Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a beaded evening gown with a pink chiffon sarong style detail designed by Catherine Walker, attends a dinner hosted by Pakistani President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on September 25, 1991 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a beaded evening gown with a pink chiffon sarong style detail designed by Catherine Walker, attends a dinner hosted by Pakistani President Ghulam Ishaq Khan on September 25, 1991 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Anwar Hussein/Getty Princess Diana

"As royal painted portraits go, it is extraordinarily rare for an artist to capture both the public and private character simultaneously," said gallerist Philip Mould in a release, per CNN. "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."

The rare portrait depiction of the Princess of Wales joins the gallery as part of the Masterpiece Art Fair 2022 exhibit.

It was originally displayed at the Kensington Palace home Diana shared with sons Prince William, 40, and Prince Harry, 37, before it was later moved to her family estate at Althorp House in Northamptonshire, 75 miles north of London.

In January, the portait also sold for more than 10 times its projected sale price, fetching a price of $201,600 at a prestigious London auction house Sotheby's.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana

Brian Rasic/Getty Images Princess Diana

The princess sat for more than 30 sittings at Shanks' studio in London to capture the image, which served as a preparatory study for a formal full-length portrait.

During this time, she built a close friendship with both the artist and his wife, Leona, later writing in a letter, "I do miss you and Leona in London, as coming to the studio was a safe haven, so full of support and love," according to Sotheby's.

The image was also painted at a key moment in Diana's personal life, as rumors of extramarital affairs and leaked telephone conversations slowly began to chip away at her marriage to Prince Charles.

prince harry, princess diana, prince william
prince harry, princess diana, prince william

Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Princess Diana, Prince Harry and Prince William

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On Friday, which would have been Princess Diana's 61st birthday, her two sons carried on her legacy by congratulating the latest recipients of the Diana Award, a worldwide philanthropy honor named for their mom.

Prince William wrote a letter to the award winners, thanking the 180 young philanthropists for helping "keep her voice alive."

Prince Harry appeared virtually at the ceremony, saying in the video address, "Today, we're reflecting on what would have been my mother's 61st birthday. And this year is also 25 years since her passing. There isn't a day during the past two and half decades where I haven't thought about the mark she left not only on me and my brother, but on all of our lives."

"I see her legacy in all of you," he continued. "I see her legacy in a Diana Award community that spans multiple generations. I see her legacy every time I meet with families, young people, and children from all corners of the world. And, I see my mum's legacy when I look at my own children every day."