After being unveiled over a decade ago, the first official royal portrait of the Princess of Wales, by Scottish-born artist Paul Emsley, has been removed from public view.
It has now been placed in storage at the National Portrait Gallery, where it can be seen “by prior appointment” only.
A royal analyst has commented on why the art has been relegated to storage after The Princess of Wales’ initial reactions were “brilliant” and “absolutely amazing” when the image was initially unveiled in 2012.
According to Richard Eden, Social Diary editor for the Daily Mail, critics were less friendly and blasted the work of art, calling it “ghastly” and “rotten.”
“It’s unthinkable that the painting of Her Royal Highness would be removed from public view without consulting her,” a source informed the editor. That would be very discourteous.”
Princess Kate is the Royal Patron of Trafalgar Square’s National Portrait Gallery.
The gallery was formed in 1856 to “promote through the medium of portraits the appreciation and understanding of the men and women who have made and are making British history and culture.”
It also claims to “promote the appreciation and understanding of portraiture in all media” on its website.
Paul Emsley, a Glasgow-born artist, painted Her Royal Highness in two sittings at the start of her public life. The first was held in Kensington Palace, while the second was held at the artist’s studio.
From 2013 through 2018, the oil painting was prominently displayed. It was then loaned for a worldwide tour until the gallery closed in 2020 for a £35 million renovation.
Eden writes that when the gallery reopened this month after three years of closure, Emsley’s “dead-eyed” picture vanished.
The Princess of Wales is presently represented at the exhibition by only two pieces of art: a painting by Jamie Coreth of her standing with Prince William and a photograph by Paolo Roversi commemorating her 40th birthday in 2022.
Following the refurbishment, a 2010 artwork of Prince William and Harry in their Household Cavalry mess attire was also taken from public display.
The gallery told the Daily Mail that the Princess did not influence the selection of pieces on display.
A gallery spokesperson said: “Decisions relating to the portraits on display are made by the curatorial team. With over 250,000 portraits held in our collection, we are only able to display a small percentage within our building. We regularly rotate the portraits on display and loan portraits from the collection to other galleries and organizations.”
The National Portrait Gallery reopened to the public on June 22, with Princess Kate attending an opening ceremony a few days earlier. To celebrate the restoration of the Grade I listed structure, the royal visited a new exhibition and spoke with award-winning artists.