Francis Bacon - Study for Pope Innocent X


Original Lithograph in colours, 1989, on Arches paper, with full margins, signed by the artist in pencil.

Edition: /60

Literature: Bruno Sabatier: Francis Bacon: Oeuvre Graphique (Catalogue Raisonee) Number 14, Page 64

Alexandre Tacou “Francis Bacon Estampes” Number 9

Size: Image size: 95 x 69 cm. Sheet size: 115,7 x 77 cm.

Published by: Michel Archimbaud for the Libraire Séguier for IRCAM, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

Note:  Bacon produced a series of distorted variants often known as the “Screaming Popes” during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The picture was described by Gilles Deleuze as an example of creative re-interpretation of the classical. Bacon avoided seeing the original, but the painting remained the single greatest influence on him; its presence can be seen in many of his best works from the late 1940s to the early 1960s. In Bacon's 1953 version, the Pope is shown screaming yet his voice is "silenced" by the enclosing drapes and dark rich colours. Bacon transforms Diego Velasquez’s classic portrait into a screaming, terrifying figure. “I feel ever so strongly that an artist must be nourished by his passions and his despairs,” he once said. “The feelings of desperation and unhappiness are more useful to an artist than the feeling of contentment, because desperation and unhappiness stretch your whole sensibility.”

The prototype, Portrait of Pope Innocent X , is an oil on canvas portrait by the Spanish painter, Diego Vellazquez, executed during a trip to Italy around 1650. Many artists and art critics consider it the finest portrait ever created.  It is housed in the Galledie Doria Pamphij in Rome. A smaller version is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, and a study is on display at Apsley House in London. The painting is noted for its realism, in that it is an unflinching portrait of a highly intelligent, shrewd but ageing man. He is dressed in linen vestments, and the quality of the work is evident in the rich reds of his upper clothing, head-dress, and the hanging curtains.

The pope, born Giovanni Battista Pamphij was initially wary of having his portrait taken by Velázquez, but relented after he was given reproductions of examples of Velázquez's portraiture. A contributing factor for this large advancement in the painter's career was that he had already depicted a number of members of Pamphilj's inner court. Yet the pope remained wary and cautious, and the painting was initially displayed to only his immediate family, and was largely lost from public view through the 17th and 18th centuries.

Provenance: Label verso: Forgyllare Olle Jonsson & Son, Nedre Langvinkelsgatan 17, 252 20 Helsingborg, Sweden

Condition: In very good condition.