Francis Bacon's 'screaming pope' comes to auction

'Screaming pope' was bought for £71,500 40 years ago. It's now expected to reach £15 million
A detail from Untitled (Pope) - Francis Bacon
A detail from Untitled (Pope) - Francis Bacon


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One of Francis Bacon's "screaming pope" paintings which has hung in the same private collection for almost 40 years is to be auctioned with an estimated price of around 200 times what it was bought for. The work, Untitled (Pope) is one of Bacon's best known paintings and was inspired by Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X and Sergei Eisenstein's 1925 film Battleship Potemkin. 

It's due to be sold at Sotheby's in New York, on November 13 - at enormous profit to the owner. The painting was bought in 1975 for £71,500 and is expected to reach in excess of  £15m.

Oliver Barker, Sotheby's senior international specialist in contemporary art, says: "Bacon is the artist everybody is seeking at the moment, he is in many ways top of the pile. To find something of this date, of this subject, of this importance is really a very notable moment."

Barker said he had been advising on the picture for six years. "It has been a slight personal odyssey and it is incredibly exciting to be able to share this with a wider audience because it is not a painting that's widely known. It has been tucked away in an extremely discreet private place and it is so fantastic to be able to announce it to the world. "It has been in a wonderful home and it's now time to find a new home."

Bacon is one of the artists featured in Phaidon's upcoming Focus series of books which we'll bringing you news of very soon. He's also the subject of a fine book featuring a collection of revealing interviews conducted by Michel Archimbaud. In the store now. 


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