Francis Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm to Make Appearance in Hong Kong, after Long Hidden for Over 50 Years

Christie’s London has secured Francis Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm for its Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction, estimated at £7,000,000 – £10,000,000 (US$9,131,850-$13,045,500). The masterpiece will be on display in New York, Hong Kong and London in September.

Francis Bacon's Head with Raised Arm

Created in 1955, the painting was last exhibited in 1962 at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin. It was acquired by the present owners the following year and has been kept in private hands for over half a century. The whereabouts of the painting became a mystery since then. Even art historian Martin Harrison had to list the work’s location as “unknown” in his most recent version of the catalogue raisonné, after a 10-year extensive research. It is the only piece of Bacon's 584 paintings which Harrison could not locate. Another mystery is the identity of the seller, whose name has been withheld by Christie’s.

Pope Pius XII

The painting measures 24 by 20 inches, one of the only two known Papal paintings of this Bacon’s jewel-like size. The painting depicts the then-incumbent, Pope Pius XII, and his face and arm flicker like moving images caught on camera. It exemplifies a question that Bacon had been asking for a long time: how to paint the human figure in the age of photography. He used the Pope as his inspiration to explore a conflict between public image and innate animal instinct. Bacon’s painting showed the fragile and flawed image of Pius. His Papal portraits are widely regarded as his finest achievements as they demonstrate Bacon’s most significant existential enquiries. Bacon’s Popes were described as “not only the centrepiece of all his paintings of the 1950s but a centrepiece of the whole of 20th-century art” by Michael Peppiatt, a well-known art historian.

Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X

The painting is one of the nine surviving paintings of Pope Pius XII by Bacon while most of his 50 Pope paintings are inspired by Spanish artist Diego Velázquez. For example, Bacon's famous work Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X shows The Pope screaming yet his voice is “silenced” by the enclosing drapes and dark rich colours. It is a distorted version of the Portrait of Innocent X painted by Diego Velázquez in 1650.

Head with Raised Arm will be on public exhibition in Hong Kong from 18-21 September. The Value will share the most updated information to you all after the media preview. Please stay tuned.

Francis Bacon’s Head with Raised Arm. Oil on Canvas.

Created in: 1955
Size: 24 x 20in. (61 x 50.7cm.)
Estimate: £7,000,000 - £10,000,000 (US$9,131,850-$13,045,500).


Auction details:
Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Date: 6 October 2017|7pm

Public Exhibition:
New York: 8-12 September
Hong Kong: 18-21 September
London: From 29 September