Thursday, 17 January 2013

Iconic Royals: Princess Diana's Portraits

With the Duchess of Cambridge's first portrait currently making headlines, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look back on Diana's most beautiful portraits and photos from the sittings. To commemorate Diana's engagement to Charles, the 19-year-old sat for her first acrylic portrait  painted by Bryan Organ in 1981.


The following portrait painted in 1984 by John Stanton Ward is one of my personal favourite's. Princess Diana is sitting on a gold settee wearing her wedding gown. It was reportedly one of Diana's favourite's, too. It was painted at Kensington Palace and is part of the personal collection by the Prince of Wales. Ward described Diana as "a glorious subject".



In 1986, Diana sat for Richard Foster wearing a long cream gown. Truly beautiful.



In 1987, the hugely talented John Merton painted a triple portrait of Diana. He said: "she is undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I have ever painted".



In 1990, Diana sat for the artist Israel Zohar. In the background of the first photo we see her lady-in-waiting Anne Beckwith Smith. Photographs of the Princess sitting for the portrait depict a happy and radiant Diana.





The portrait.



Diana was painted by Nelson Shanks in 1994. The Princess loved it so much she hung it in her apartment at Kensington Palace. It is now in the possession of her brother Earl Spencer.





Henry Mee painted Diana in 1995. The painting for the red cross shows a sombre looking Diana wearing a sapphire gown and choker.



Diana was due to sit for artist Theo Platt but unfortunately died before this was possible. Theo used photographs to paint the Princess of Wales standing in landscape wearing a black gown. The painting is displayed at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. I thought Theo Platt did a fine job considering Diana was unable to see him. A very poignant painting which captured Diana's effortless and everlasting grace.



Which of Diana's portraits is your favourite?

30 comments:

  1. I absolutely love the 1986 Richard Foster portrait. She looks so lovely and natural. I enjoyed this post very much, however, it did make me a little sad to think about Diana. I remember looking up to her so much as a little girl.

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  2. Emily J. small town IL USA18 January 2013 at 02:58

    The Richard Forster is my favorite. I think she looks young in all of them. I also think she has a haunted look in them. a sad look.

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  3. These portraits are beautiful. I'd love to see one in person one day! I wish Kate's most recent portrait would be appreciated more. Here facial features aren't exactly accurate, but neither are these and they are glorious nonetheless. Thanks for the great post! I see Diana's portraits here and there online, but here they are in one place!

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  4. Well, seeing those portraits, I have better opinon of the Kate´s. Actually every time I see it I like it more.
    The only one I like is the Nelson Shanks and maybe the Richard Foster which has almost prerafaelitan glow. The rest didn´t capture her look neither her spirit, it is obvious in comparation with the photos of her posing. The Theo Platt is mere kitsch in my opinion.
    I looked up very much to Diana when I was little girl, now I see the world less black and white.

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  5. Jean from Lancs.18 January 2013 at 08:49

    Some of these don't look too much like Diana,but they make attractive pictures.
    The one of Catherine is so dark and gloomy, which she so obviously is not.
    However the one supposedly of the Queen at the time of her Coronation and has been kept hidden in Liverpool must take the prize for the worst portrait ever--it bears not the slightest resemblance to HM at that time

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    1. Jean, I couldn't agree more about the portrait of the Queen. If ever a portrait qualified for a complete do-over... :)

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  6. I really like the 1987 John Merton and 1994 Nelson Shanks paintings.

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  7. I love the wedding dress one. The one with three of her is a little creepy!

    Did you see the picture on the Daily Mail of the Queen portait that was shelved for decades because it didn't look like her? I laughed out loud when I saw it... it's a pretty girl for sure, but doesn't look like QEII at all and the neck is DEFINITELY too long for any kind of human being!! Compared to that I thought the Kate portrait looked very realistic!

    Charlotte, would it be possible to have a post on Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie's trip to Germany? I'm so excited to see the two girls getting to do something (and also excited to hear that Beatrice now has a full-time job) :)

    -Sarah

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  8. I think the Nelson Shanks has to be my favorite; I think it's the most realistic looking of them all. I love the photographs taken during the Israel Zohar sitting. A really candid look at Diana; truly beautiful. Thanks for the wonderful post, Charlotte!

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  9. I have always really loved the 1984 by John Stanton Ward of Diana on the gold settee in Kingston Palace...you have a little typo oops in your text on that one - you said that it IS one of Diana's favorites - it WAS one of her favs. Just a little current vs past tense slip - I wish it was still one of her favs - she would have loved to have seen her boys as adults. I hope that Charles places this painting in the collection at Kingston eventually - I think that is where it belongs. I recall all too well the first official portrait of Diana at 19 when she became engaged. That was such a scared little immature girl and the portrait really show it. It also was not well received but of course with no Internet then did not get the wide spread look/see that HRHDC's first portrait got. I guess you just get used how to not look and read or even try not to hear all the good/bad written about you when you are in the lime light. Some want it like the Kardashians - the more they are featured just enhances their brand which won't be here in 10 yrs unless the 2 young ones take over. Odd to even think that HRHDC has a 'brand' about her. She is in my mind above that - but really there is a strong social media unit of course today for the Royals. Like what you are doing here with this blog.

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  10. Hi there, love your website. If I'm not mistaken, the Nelson Shanks portrait hangs at the top of the main staircase at Althorp - I remember seeing it when we visited in 1998.

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    1. Very interesting, thank you very much Patricia.

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    2. Hi Patricia,

      You are correct, it is in Althorp. We have seen it on our many visits to Althorp - a lovely day out with lots of Diana memorabilia. The Earl is often around and chats to visitors. One year he signed our books!

      PPx

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  11. Kate, Texas, USA18 January 2013 at 20:04

    I really like all of them, but the Nelson Shanks is my favorite. It looks so realistic and seems to capture the contemplative Diana. It hung on her stairwell landing at KP, but now it hangs at Althorp. I do hope it is returned to William and Harry one day. I love the picture you included of Mr. Shanks actually painting the portrait. It looks like Diana had a case of the giggles...the fun, childish Diana everyone loved. I also like the Henry Mee. I think it is also realistic. It's not the happiest expression, but the somber look represents the sadness and grief in her life. Definitely relevant.

    I know they are not mentioned above, but I love the photos of Diana by Mario Testino. I know none were actually made into painted portraits, but it's almost like they are the last image frozen in time. I saw them displayed at KP and they were absolutely beautiful. Brought tears to my eyes.

    She really was an incredible beautiful woman and I would think not someone easy to paint because of her flawless beauty. What a wonderful post Charlotte!

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    1. Kate, I couldn't agree more! The MT photographs of Diana are magical.

      PPx

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  12. I just found this interview. Lana Marks, friend of Princess Diana, shared some lovely comments about William and Kate. She said Kate is Diana's dream as a daughter-in-law and she represents everything in a person that Diana wanted for William. Well worth typing the link! :)

    http://www.princess-diana-remembered.com/diana-news-blog.html

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    1. Thank you very much for sharing. I love that website :)

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  13. Oh, I do wish Diana was still with us. The Nelson Shanks one is my favourite also, although I also like the one directly underneath it. The last one is awful! Bare feet and bunions???

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  14. The Nelson Shanks portrait is my favorite too. I saw it at Althorp and it hangs next to a portrait of Charles Spencer (Diana's brother), also by Nelson Shanks. (C.S. is holding a copy of the speech he gave at Diana's funeral.) Very moving, IMO. I also saw the Bryan Organ portrait at the National Portrait Gallery and it really captured Diana at the youngest and most hopeful part of her royal life. I love the triple portrait as well, but I do not believe the other artists did her justice.

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  16. Sarah from Calif.19 January 2013 at 03:05

    A painful trip down memory lane. Thank you for this post. She was beautiful inside and out.

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  17. One lovely early portrait you missed was June Mendoza's one of Diana in a red lace gown cica around 1984. Believe it was for the Royal grocers or something like that. Mendoza has done other great royal portraits and really captured Diana's exptession at that time but it seems often overlooked in portrait lists now.

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    1. @Anonymous 23:46... I looked up the artist after reading your post and her work is absolutely amazing! Wow! After seeing her royal portraits, I would say she is the best at capturing her subject.

      http://www.junemendoza.co.uk/royal-gallery.html

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  18. For those who are interested, I just found out about one final portrait I wasn't familiar with. It is by the late John Hankinson and shows Diana in 1992 in a pink satin gown, done for the Leatherstocking Guild for a ship. It's worth noting because it seems to have been extremely controversal at the time and was trashed by the critics. The artist was very upset. I don't think the quality is quite up to some of the other but my image is very bad. (Wish someone would take Charlotte's lead and collect all of these in one spot.) Diana looks very sad in the portrait so it captures more of 1992 than may have been realized at the time. I found it most interesting because of the present attacks on Kate's artist. While I thought a photographic painter like Emsley was a poor choice for someone as heavily and successfully photographed as Kate and I don't much like the painting due to the expression (or the photo it's based on), apparently, people have been offensive and even vicious to him and he's extremely upset at the attacks. Being a royal portrait painter has its drawbacks!

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  19. She looks like Harry in the Foster painting

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  20. I love the wedding dress portrait and it is just a lovely IRL - I saw it at KP once on display it is beautiful. However my favourite of all the portraits is the Merton tryptic it's on of the most realistic looking. I'd love to see that IRL! In a strange way I think the most life like portrayal of Diana is the Red Cross portrait it is such a good likeness.

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  21. Great to see the official portraits here together, but you missed one from the list - there was the early official portrait by June Mendoza, with Diana in a long red lace gown : http://www.junemendoza.co.uk/royal-gallery.html

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  22. Oh yes and there is also another wedding dress portrait by Susan Ryder, commissioned by Prince Charles done in 1982.
    It can be seen on this page:
    http://theprincessdianafan2.skyrock.com/2822463592-Fevrier-&-Mars-1982.html

    The much maligned "chocolate box" portrait was done for the Worshipful Company of Leathersellers (which is where it hangs) and can be seen here

    http://theprincessdianafan2.skyrock.com/photo.html?id_article=2963436765&id_article_media=5817141

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  23. Does anyone know where I can purchase the John Merton, Princess Diana poster?

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  24. It's an interesting post. The first portrait (Bryan Organ's) was slashed by a member of the public shortly after it was displayed; I think the reason stated at the time was that the student who did this felt the portrait was not flattering. The Platt portrait is not quite right of Diana's face, proportions are wrong. I agree with bluhare about the feet; I don't think Diana would have wanted her feet to be portrayed like this, the sandals shown in the portrait were not her style at all. It looks like she is wearing a style of sandals worn in Biblical times! After Diana had died, some people wanted a stature of Diana erected in London; but there was fierce opposition as people felt it would be impossible to capture her beauty and would doubtless be hugely controversial.

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