Francis Bacon's Portrait of Henrietta Moraes comes to auction for the first time

Following on swiftly from their auction of Old Masters paintings next week, on February 14 Christie's will offer the extraordinary Portrait of Henrietta Moraes in their evening auction of Post-War & Contemporary Art.

Francis Outred, Christie's Head of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Europe, writes: "Searing with raw colour and texture, Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is one of the most seductive and sexually charged paintings I have ever encountered by Francis Bacon.

"The carefully constructed mood through colour is forcefully invaded by the extraordinary swipes of the loaded brush, which create the woman's voluptuous figure. This juxtaposition of the sheer beauty of colour with the brutal physicality of paint is what makes Bacon's art so remarkable."

The painting has remained in the same collection for almost 30 years, before now, and is coming to auction for the first time.

Portrait of Henrietta Moraes was painted by Francis Bacon toward the end of 1963, the year after his breakthrough retrospective at the Tate Gallery, London, in 1962, and the same year as his first major American exhibition at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. For many years, the work formed part of the Schniewind collection of important post-war paintings, the present owner acquiring it from the family in 1983.

Francis Bacon Portrait of Henrietta Moraes
Francis Bacon's startling Portrait of Henrietta Moraes

Bacon's works are of course highly coveted. Even works he destroyed have sold for substantial amounts - for example on British TV show Four Rooms.

While Bacon had often considered the figure of the male nude, his depictions of Moraes were the first to seriously consider the female form.

David Sylvester observed: "Bacon's lack of personal erotic interest in naked females did nothing to prevent these paintings from being as passionate as those of the male bodies that obsessed him."

Moraes was painted by a number of contemporary British artists. Notably, she was the subject for Lucian Freud's Girl in a Blanket (1952), and was once his lover.

Bacon only ever depicted friends and always painted from photographs instead of from life. For Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, Bacon commissioned John Deakin, his friend and feted photographer to take a famous series of images that he would translate into his paintings.

Collectors on the lookout for works by the greatest artists of the 20th century are in luck, as there is also the opportunity to buy this wonderful sketch by Salvador Dali - one of the few painters to be more celebrated than Bacon - from our stock.

The nude work is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from the Galerie St. Tropez and we are naturally confident about its future value - so much so that it qualifies for our unique 120% guarantee.

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