The Artist and the Princess

 The 50 portrait sittings Princess Diana shared with Studio Incamminati founder Nelson Shanks produced more than the beautiful painting that hangs in Althorp, her family’s ancestral home. Those weeks together in a borrowed London studio forged a special friendship between the princess and the artist.

During the weeks they shared with Diana, Nelson, and his wife and school co-founder Leona Shanks, discovered a surprisingly down-to-earth member of royalty whose life was in upheaval. Diana was going through a high-profile divorce and fending off an incessant invasive British press.

"It was a painful time for Diana,” Nelson told Richard Kay, author of “Diana:The Untold Story.” “At every turn, somebody was accusing her of something. She was getting astonishingly little support. Charles had just done that TV interview in which he'd admitted adultery, but failed to mention that he'd ever loved her. I think she was more hurt by this omission than by anything he did say . . ."

"She would be sitting, posing,” said Leona “and suddenly you'd see she'd be thinking of something painful. Her face flushed and tears welled up in her eyes. She often arrived to the studio crying."

The Shanks befriended the princess, accompanying her to restaurants and galleries. At one point, Nelson says he found himself shielding Diana from paparazzi after dinner in a London restaurant. “The poor girl tried to get into her car, but they literally had their cameras jammed on the windshield, “he said. “I had to get between them and Diana . . ."

Years later, upon receiving the news of Diana’s death, Nelson said, "It's one of the greatest tragedies in my lifetime."

The painting tries to capture the complexities of the young princess’s life. “It was a sad time for her… she has deep weights on her shoulders and problems on her mind. But … I wanted that little glimmer of light in her face at the same time.  . . . she had love and caring and wonderful qualities that put her over the top . . . gave her a power of her own.
“If there’s anything that is wonderful and warm and human and open that you could imagine about her, it is true. An absolutely spectacular person . . ."