Landmark Francis Bacon work to lead Christie's London sale
A landmark painting by Francis Bacon will be offered for sale at Christie's next month, after being hidden from the public for almost half a century.
'Study of Red Pope 1962. 2nd version 1971' marks the only work of Bacon's career in which his two personal obsessions appear together on the same canvas.
The work will now cross the block in London on Friday October 6, and is expected to fetch an eight-figure sum.
The painting features a depiction of the Pope, whose reflection in a mirror is that of George Dyer, Bacon's former lover and muse.
Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bacon produced numerous works depicting the Pope as a tormented figure, "tortured by the weight of his own authority".
These twisted portraits are now considered as some of the most important artworks of the 20th century.
However, when Bacon met petty East End crook George Dyer in 1963, the pair became lovers and Bacon discovered a new artistic muse.
'Study of Red Pope 1962' was executed in April 1971, and made its public debut six months later at the famous retrospective of Bacon’s work at the Grand Palais in Paris.
Sadly, Dyer never got to see the painting hung on a gallery wall. After a turbulent eight-year relationship, and battles with drink and depression, he took his own life in a Paris hotel room just three days before the exhibition.
The painting was acquired by a private collector in 1973, and has remained in that same family collection ever since. Although it has appeared in every major publications dedicated to Bacon’s work, it has not been publically exhibited for 45 years.
"This painting is quite simply Art History," said Francis Outred Chairman and Head of Post-War and Contemporary Art.
"If Bacon's oeuvre was shaped by his devotion to George Dyer and the aftermath of his death provided his darkest and most celebrated triptychs, then this painting represents the ultimate landmark.
"Painted six months before George Dyer would commit suicide on the eve of Bacon’s major retrospective at the Grand Palais, it is a tragic premonition which unites Bacon's two greatest muses, the Pope and George Dyer for the first and only time.
"Rarely have I seen a single panel carry so much power and profundity, the swipes of colour and scumbling which realise the heads are a sight to behold. This painting gives me a shiver down my spine and I am extremely excited to be sharing it with the public his October."
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