One of only a handful of works depicting Pope Pius XII by Francis Bacon in private hands comes up at Christie’s in London on February 11. Study for a Head is dated 1955, a time when Pius XII reigned as Supreme Pontiff. Fascinated by men of power and authority, Bacon was attracted to the combination of violence and vulnerability latent in their status. The oil on canvas is at the Post War and Contemporary Art evening sale in London on February 11. The auction has a pre-sale estimate of £95 million for 64 lots.
This painting was exhibited at Tate London in 1962 and then remained unseen by the public until it resurfaced in retrospectives at Valencia d’Art Modern in 2003 and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel in 2004. The other portraits by Bacon of Pius II are at Kunsthalle Mannheim, Stedelijk Museum Voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent and at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich.
Christie’s is one of the sponsors of the exhibition Francis Bacon and the Art of the Past now on at the State Hermitage Museum in Russia. This exhibition will travel to the Sainsbury Centre, Norwich next April.