Francis Bacon’s triptych from prominent architect's collection expected to garner US$47.6 million

During 2022's Spring auction season, Christie's 20th / 21st Century: Shanghai to London Evening Sales will be the focus. Amongst its highlights, British painter Francis Bacon's Triptych 1986-7 will lead the London Evening Sale on 1 March.

In addition to illustrating a close companion during the famous British artist’s late years, the painting also depicts former American President, Woodrow Wilson and the scene of assassination of Soviet Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. The triptych is estimated between £35 million and 55 million pounds (around US$47.6 million to 74.9 million dollars).

After 30 years in private hands, the painting will be auctioned. According to Western media sources, the triptych's current owner is Norman Foster – a prominent British modernist architect.

Francis Bacon posing in front of Triptych 1986-7

Lot 38 Francis Bacon Triptych 1986-7, Oil, pastel, aerosol paint and dry transfer lettering on canvas, in three parts

Created in 1986-1987
Each: 198 x 147.5 cm

  • Marlborough International Fine Art, Vaduz
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2007

Estimate: £35,000,000 – 55,000,000

British modernist architect, Norman Foster

Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) │ Sold: US$142.2 million, Christie's New York, November 2013

Bacon’s Triptych 1986-7 is currently owned by British modernist architect, Norman Foster, Baron Foster of Thames Bank. He is best known for designing key buildings around the world, such as the Great Court at the British Museum, the Apple Park in California and Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation building in Hong Kong.  

First exhibited at Marlborough Gallery in 1988, the work was later purchased from the New York gallery by Foster in 2007. In 2020, Bacon’s triptych was exhibited at a Centre Pompidou show devoted to the artist.  

From 1944 to 1986, Bacon created 28 triptychs. In 2013, his personal auction record was set with a triptych – when Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) was sold for US$142.4 million dollars at Christie's New York.

The British figurative painter’s protagonists range from lovers, close friends, self-portraits and the famous series of portraits of Popes. In this present auction, the Triptych 1986-7 is a rare amalgam of one of Bacon’s companions and two historical figures.

Former American President Woodrow Wilson is depicted in the triptych's left panel

On the left panel, former American President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) is depicted from a scene during World War One – the moment he stepped out of the Paris Peace Conference at Quai d’Orsay after signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

During the peace talks, Wilson established the League of Nations to maintain world peace. Despite its best efforts, it failed to prevent the aggression of Axis powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) and ultimately, the outbreak of World War Two. In 1946, the League ceased operations but many of its components were transferred into the new United Nations.

The middle panel depicts John Edwards (also pictured far right), Bacon's last and closest companion

At the centre panel, John Edwards is illustrated. He was Bacon's closest and trusted companion, and inherited the painter’s house, studio and paintings after his death in 1992.

Edwards was the son of a London dockworker and Bacon was one of the most famous faces on the London social scene. In 1974, Bacon met Edwards at the Colony Room, a private club in Soho. The artist was in his late 70s, while Edwards was his early 20s.

The process of the two from meeting was eventful. They first met at the Colony Room's bar, where Edward worked. At first, Edward learned from Muriel Belcher – the club's owner – that the famous Bacon would come to his bar with a group of friends, and ordered in a large quantity of the artist’s favourite champagne.

Unexpectedly, Bacon did not show up in the end and left Edwards infuriated. A few days later, when Bacon finally arrived, Edward confronted him for his selfishness and the inconvenience he caused. The encounter startled Bacon, but also intrigued him.

The two remained close until Bacon's death. Edward's presence also allowed Bacon to get over former partner, George Dyer's death and propelled him to a new style of his late paintings.

The right panel illustrates the scene of Leon Trotsky's assassination in Mexico

On the right panel, the scene of Leon Trotsky’s (1879-1940) assassination is depicted.

During the early 20th century, Trotsky was an important revolutionary and theorist in Soviet Russia. He was one of key leaders of the October Revolution, as well as a key figure who established the Red Army and Fourth International.

After Lenin's death in 1924, Trotsky’s rival and Soviet Russia’s political leader, Joseph Stalin, grew increasingly in power. He expelled Trotsky from the party and sent him on political exile.  

In August 1940 and during asylum in Mexico, Trotsky was assassinated by Spanish Communist and Soviet Union agent, Ramon Mercader – fatally hit with an ice pick on the head.

Whether Bacon’s triptych sells within expectations remains to be seen. The Value will continue to report on its development.

Other highlight lots from London Evening Sale: 

Lot 34 Franz Marc Die Fuchse (The Foxes), Oil on canvas

Created in 1913
88.3 x 66.4 cm

  • Maria Marc, Ried, by descent from the artist, in March 1916
  • Galerie Der Sturm [Herwarth Walden], Berlin, by whom acquired from the above, by September 1916
  • Franz Kluxen, Berlin, by whom acquired from the above, by August 1917
  • Max Leon Flemming, Hamburg & Berlin, by whom probably acquired from the above in May 1920
  • Kurt & Else Grawi, Berlin, by whom acquired from the above in 1928
  • William & Charlotte Dieterle, Beverly Hills, by whom acquired from the above in 1940 (through the agency of Ernst (Ernest) Simon and Karl Nierendorf, New York); offered for sale, Klipstein und Kornfeld, Bern, 8 June 1961, Lot 64
  • Helmut Horten, Berlin, by whom acquired via private treaty prior to the above sale and subsequently gifted to the Städtische Kunstsammlung, Dusseldorf in 1962
  • Restituted by the city of Dusseldorf to the heirs of Kurt & Else Grawi, in 2021

Estimated to fetch £35,000,000

Lot 108 Pablo Picasso La fenetre ouverte (The opened window), Oil on canvas

Created in 1929
130.5 x 163.4 cm

  • Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Paris & New York, by whom acquired directly from the artist, by 1932
  • Mollie Bostwick (née Netcher), Chicago, New York & Palm Beach, by whom acquired from the above on 2 November 1961
  • Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 6375), by whom acquired from the above on 10 March 1970, via the intermediation of James Goodman Gallery, New York
  • Acquired from the above on 30 May 1974, and thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: £14,000,000 – 24,000,000

Lot 36 Lucian Freud Girl with Closed Eyes, Oil on canvas

Created in 1986-1987
46.3 x 60.4 cm

  • James Kirkman, London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1987

Estimate: £10,000,000 – 15,000,000

Lot 55 Marc Chagall Le jongleur (The juggler), Oil on canvas

Created in 1943
110.5 x 78.8 cm

  • Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
  • Mrs Gilbert W. Chapman (formerly known as Mrs. Charles B. 'Bobsy' Goodspeed), by whom acquired from the above, in 1945
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (no. 52.1005), a gift from the above in 1952; sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 2 November 2005, Lot 34
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: £7,500,000 – 10,500,000

Lot 102 Rene Magritte La lumiere du pole (Polar Light), Oil on canvas

Created in 1926-1927
139 x 104.8 cm

  • Galerie Le Centaure, Brussels
  • E.L.T. Mesens, Brussels & London, by whom acquired from the above in 1932
  • Galerie Isy Brachot, Brussels, by whom acquired from the above in 1968
  • Galleria Internazionale, Milan, by whom acquired from the above in 1968
  • Condotti 75 [Maria Laura Drudi Gambillo], Rome (No. 07.49)
  • Sophia Loren & Carlo Ponti, Rome
  • Private collection, Brescia, by whom acquired from the above in the early 1990s
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £5,500,000 – 7,500,000

Lot 43 David Hockney │ David Graves in a Harlequin Shirt, Oil on canvas (in four parts)

Created in 1982
270.5 x 76 cm

  • L.A. Louver, Venice, California
  • Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 1983)
  • Private Collection, La Jolla (acquired from the above in 1984)
  • Private Collection, Los Angeles (acquired from the above in 1988)
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner

Estimate: £3,000,000 – 5,000,000

Lot 103 Rene Magritte La meditation, Oil on canvas

Created in 1936
50.5 x 65 cm

  • Edward James, West Dean, West Sussex, by whom probably acquired from The London Gallery in 1937
  • The Edward James Foundation, West Dean, West Sussex; sale, Christie's, New York, 13 November 1984, Lot 148
  • Private collection, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale

Estimate: £2,200,000 – 2,800,000

Auction Details:

Auction House: Christie’s


  • The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale (London)
  • 20th / 21st Century: Shanghai Evening Sale
  • 20th / 21st Century: London Evening Sale

Sale Date: 1 March 2022