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    Untitled (Pope) by Francis Bacon at Sotheby’s. (Click on image to enlarge).  UPDATE: IT MADE $29.7 MILLION.

    A Screaming Pope by Francis Bacon painted in 1954 will feature at Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in New York on November 13. The vision of screaming Popes emerged from the desolate shadows of the Second World War as humanity tried to make sense of the horrors that had been committed during those years. This version is closely related to the artist’s Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, the seminal masterpiece now housed in the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa. It has been in the same private collection since 1975.
    The Papal imagery and its inspiration first started to appear in Bacon’s work in the late 1940’s. This version is more closely allied to a cycle of eight Study for Portraits from 1953 created for an exhibition at Durlacher Brothers in New York. The series is based upon the 1649 state portrait of Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez, court painter to King Phillip IV of Spain. Velázquez dutifully portrays Innocent as the most powerful man in the world surrounded by the luxurious trappings of his office, yet also as a fallible mortal who must face the burdens and pitfalls of his position. In Untitled (Pope) Bacon removes the idiosyncrasies of the grand state portrait. They are replaced by a more intimate depiction of pain and suffering inspired by the screaming nurse figure in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 movie The Battleship Potemkin and the clenched fist from Edweard Muybridge’s photograph Striking a Blow with the Right Hand. It had been thought that Bacon had not seen the Velázquez original when he painted this circa 1954 work. New research suggests that he could have been familiar with another version of the Innocent X painting. A smaller rendering belonged to the Duke of Wellington and was housed at Apsley House in London, just a short walk from Bacon’s studio at the Royal College of Art.
    Untitled (Pope) is estimated to fetch $18/25 million.  UPDATE: IT MADE $29.7 MILLION.

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