Bacon Papal portrait Head with Raised Arm – offered for auction: October 2017

Francis Bacon, Head with Raised Arm, 1955. Oil on Canvas. 24″ x 20″ © The Estate of Francis Bacon


Bacon worked on his Pope portraits (more than 50 canvases) for over twenty years until the mid-1960s. Although subsequently Bacon announced that he thought the works ‘silly’ and wished he had never done them, Bacon’s Pope portraits are widely regarded as his finest achievements and stand today among the foremost images of the 20th century.

This work belongs to a group of nine surviving paintings depicting the then-incumbent Pope, Pius XII, the only living Pope that Bacon ever painted. From 1939 until his death in 1958, Pius XII’s reign spanned the Second World War, famously drawing accusations of silence in the face of atrocity. Lesser known than Bacon’s more famous “Screaming Pope” variations on Velázquez’s magnificent 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent X, this portrait is still a fascinating study by a major 20th century artist who pondered endlessly how to deal with portraiture in a post-photographic age.

Head with Raised Arm  will be offered in Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 6 October 2017 in London. On view from 8 September at Christie’s New York; from 18 September at Christie’s Hong Kong; and from 30 September 2017 at Christie’s London.

Estimate: £7,000,000 – £10,000,000

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