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Francis Bacon ‘screaming pope’ painting fetches double its estimate as it sells for $50m in New York

Bringing home the Bacon: Francis Bacon ‘screaming pope’ painting fetches double its estimate as it sells for $50m in New York

  • Study For A Head was made in 1952 and estimated to be worth $20-30 million
  • Bacon said to be inspired by the works of Diego Velazquez and Edvard Munch
  • Was part of the contemporary sale at Sotheby’s that hammered $342 million in sales including a Mark Rothko mural for $43 million

A Francis Bacon painting considered one of his most important still privately owned has sold at auction for more than $50 million (£39 million) at Sotheby’s.

Study For A Head (1952), from Bacon’s ‘screaming popes’ series, had been estimated to fetch between 20 to 30 million US dollars when it went under the hammer in New York on Thursday.

Instead it was sold for 50.4 million US dollars.

The painting had remained in the collection of Richard E Lang and Jane Lang Davis since 1975 and had only been exhibited in public once before now in its 57-year history, Sotheby’s said.

Francis Bacon’s Study For A Head (1952) from Bacon’s “screaming popes” series, which has sold above its top $30 million estimate at a contemporary art auction in New York’s Sotheby’s

The identity of the buyer was not immediately available.

Bacon’s piece was part of the auction house’s contemporary contemporary sale, which made $342 million on the night, with a Mark Rothko mural, Untitled (1960), which hammered for $43 million. 

However, the night paled in comparison to neighbour Christie’s Contemporary sale a few weeks ago that raked in $538.9 million, including a new record for artist Jeff Koons with a $91 million bidding war for his piece ‘Bunny’ (1986).

According to Sotheby's, Study For A Head is Bacon confronting his disciplinarian father, who expelled him from the family home after catching him wearing his mother's underwear

According to Sotheby’s, Study For A Head is Bacon confronting his disciplinarian father, who expelled him from the family home after catching him wearing his mother’s underwear

Born in Dublin, Ireland, to British parents, Bacon took up painting in his 20s and went on to become a world-leading artist and one of the most prominent of the 20th century.

According to Sotheby’s, Study For A Head is Bacon confronting his disciplinarian father, who expelled him from the family home after catching him wearing his mother’s underwear.

The painting shows a screaming man. It is one of six from the collection, which was inspired by Diego Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X.

The Scream (1893) by Edvard Munch

Study for Portrait II (1956) by Francis Bacon

Bacon is believed to have taken inspiration for the piece from expressionist artist Edvard Munch (his painting The Scream, left) and had produced a similar work which was inspired by Diego Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X from the 17th Century

Francis Bacon (pictured in 1984) was born in Dublin, Ireland and took up painting in his 20s before going on to become a world-leading artist and one of the most prominent of the 20th century

Francis Bacon (pictured in 1984) was born in Dublin, Ireland and took up painting in his 20s before going on to become a world-leading artist and one of the most prominent of the 20th century

Gregoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York, said: ‘Study For A Head is the very best of six portrait heads completed by Francis Bacon in 1952 and one of only two of the artist’s iconic ‘screaming popes’ executed in this head-and-shoulders format.

‘The painting contains all the elements of the artist’s best-known works from this period – broken pince-nez glasses, a purple mozzetta and of course the reverberating scream – and draws inspiration from the works of Velazquez, Munch and Poussin, as well as Bacon’s lifelong exploration of the human condition.’

Other works from this series now reside at Tate Britain, London and the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven.

Bacon died from a heart attack in 1992.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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