Major Francis Bacon painting to make $81.5m?

A major painting by Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is set to appear at auction for the first time in 45 years.

Titled “Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971”, the piece is Bacon’s final painting to feature his celebrated Pope motif.

Bacon Pope Dyer

Francis Bacon painted this work six months before George Dyer's suicide 

It also features George Dyer – the great love of Bacon’s life.

By the time this painting was made, Bacon and Dyer were estranged. Six months later, shortly before Bacon’s first major retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris, Dyer would take a fatal overdose of sleeping tablets.

Francis Outred, chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, said: “It is a tragic premonition which unites Bacon's two greatest muses, the Pope and George Dyer for the first and only time...

“Rarely have I seen a single panel carry so much power and profundity, the swipes of colour and scumbling which realise the heads are a sight to behold.

“This painting gives me a shiver down my spine and I am extremely excited to be sharing it with the public this October.”

The work is valued at £60m ($81.5m), a figure that would make it one of Bacon's top three most valuable paintings.

The record remains $142.4m, set for his extraordinary triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud.

Christie’s will also offer a smaller Francis Bacon Pope painting in the same auction.

Titled Head with Raised Arm (1955), it’s valued at up to £10m ($13m).

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