Francis Bacon's 'Study of Red Pope' hidden away for half a century to set record at auction

The painting is set to sell for a record £60 million.

Francis Bacon's 1971 masterpiece titled 'Study of Red Pope' is the grand finale in the series featuring papal figures.

The painting is set to sell for £60 million; this is a record for any art auction in Europe.

The artwork was acquired by the family of the present owner in 1973. And while it has appeared in all major publications devoted to Bacon’s work, this is the first time it will be showed in a public exhibition.

The painting shows a papal figure and seen standing in the shadows is the painter’s lover, George Dyer. This was the first and only time his greatest muses were featured together in his work.

The painting was first exhibited in 1971 in Paris.

It was a heartbreaking premonition of Dyer’s death, who killed himself from an alcohol and drug overdose in one of the city’s hotels. Just 36 hours before the exhibition, six months after it was painted.

Christie’s announced on Friday that it will be selling the painting, which has the full title ‘Study of Red Pope 1962 2nd version 1971’, on October 6, 2017. They have given it a guide price of £60 million.

If it sells at this price, the total cost, including premiums, will exceed the £65 million paid for Giacometti’s life-sized sculpture L’homme qui marche I in 2010.

Francis Outred, head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s, described the painting as ‘quite simply art history’, representing a landmark moment in Bacon’s artistic output.

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