Saturday, July 30, 2011

Francis Bacon's "Study for a Portrait"

"Study for a Portrait" with doorman (AFP)

Francis Bacon's "Study for a Portrait" sold at Christie's London last month for a phenomenal £17,961,250, about £7,000,000 more than the unpublished presale estimate.  I should point out that Bacon's studies on this scale are finished compositions and not studies in the ordinary, preliminary sense of the term.  This painting from 1953 has been extensively exhibited and clearly is seen as an iconic work for the artist.

I really don't want to appear to be disrespectful of any art, but I'm going to pose a practical question to those who seriously collect postwar and contemporary art.  I've seen many Bacon works such as this in museums, but I don't personally know anyone who collects his artwork and lives with it in the home.  My question for the anonymous buyer is actually rather mundane:  where in the house do you hang such a painting?  Living room, dining room, and bedroom would seem to be unlikely choices, but still possible.  I think I would opt for the study or library if I were going to contemplate such serious fare as this.  

That still begs the question of where to display the nude by Lucian Freud.

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)

Study for a Portrait


Price Realized 

  • £17,961,250
  • ($28,666,155)
  • Price includes buyer's premium
    Estimate on request

Sale Information

Special Features

Lot Description

Francis Bacon (1909-1992)
Study for a Portrait
oil on canvas
78 x 54in. (198 x 137.5cm.)
Painted in 1953 

Special Notice

VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.


Rodrigo Moynihan, London.
Louis Le Brocquy, Carros (Alpes Maritimes).
Marlborough Fine Art Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1984. 
Pre-Lot Text
W. Lewis, The Demon of Progress in the Arts, London 1954, no. 4 (illustrated, titled Man in a Chair).
J. Rothenstein and R. Alley, Francis Bacon Catalogue Raisonné, London 1964, no. 78 (illustrated, unpaged).
D. Ades and A. Forge, Francis Bacon, London 1985, no. 23 (illustrated in colour, unpaged). 
London, Institute of Contemporary Arts, Francis Bacon, 1955, no. 10.
Paris, Galerie Maeght, Francis Bacon, 1966. This exhibition later travelled to Rome, Marlborough Galleria d'Arte; London, Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. and Siegen, Oberes Schloss.
Tokyo, National Museum of Modern Art, Francis Bacon: Paintings 1945-1982, 1983. This exhibition later travelled to Kyoto, National Museum of Modern Art and Nagoya, Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Francis Bacon, Retrospektive, 1987, no. 6 (illustrated in colour, unpaged).
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art, 2003-04, no. 89 (illustrated in colour, p. 237). This exhibition later travelled to Basel, Fondation Beyeler.
London, Tate Britain, Francis Bacon, 2008-09 (illustrated in colour, p. 131). This exhibition later travelled to Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.



  1. The Bacon triptych that sold for $86m to the russian oligarch Roman Abramovich allegedly hangs in his living room. But I assume that a lot of those record breaking paintings never end up on a wall at all.
    Nice attempt at blogging!
    The Rackham that didn't sell is beautiful. If I had the cash I would have bought that one and it would have most definitely gone up on my wall.

  2. I'm with you there, Uli! No need to store the Rackham in a vault!