Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards by Francis Bacon has sold for $80.8m at Christie's May 13 post war and contemporary art sale.
Edwards was a bar manager, who became Bacon's closest friend and the inheritor of his £11m ($18.5m) estate.
Christie's chairman Brett Gorvy commented prior to the sale: "It shows an incredible tenderness and harmony that was prompted by Bacon's paternal relationship with the sitter, and this period of contentment elicited a confidence of style that has been compared to late Matisse."
The 1984 work failed to match the stratospheric figure attained by Bacon's triptych of Lucian Freud last year, despite being broadly similar in execution. This is likely because it lacks the incendiary impact of that particular work.
Other important lots in the sale included Barnett Newman's Black Fire I, which sold for an artist's record $84.1m.
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