Francis Bacon’s ‘Elated’ Double Self-Portrait Heads to Sotheby’s

The diptych is estimated at $22 to $30 million.

Francis Bacon, Two Studies for a Self-Portrait (1970).
Photo: courtesy Sotheby’s.

A Francis Bacon double self-portrait, a rare format for the artist, is coming to auction at Sotheby’s New York in May. Two Studies for a Self-Portrait (1970) is tagged at a hefty $22 to $30 million.

If it hits its high estimate, it will be among the top 20 or so prices fetched by the Irish-born artist, whose auction record stands at the stratospheric $142.4 million, paid for Three Studies of Lucian Freud (in 3 parts) at Christie’s New York in November 2013. That price was then the highest amount ever paid for an artwork at auction.

The Bacon reveal marks the beginning of the trickle of buzz-building announcements the auction houses make in the run-up to the major auctions.

Adding to its allure, the work has been with the seller since soon after it was painted and has been on public view only twice, most recently at Marlborough Fine Art, London, in 1993. It was previously shown at the 1971 Bacon retrospective at the Grand Palais, Paris. It goes on view at Sotheby’s Los Angeles on Wednesday.

The work was also featured on the cover of Milan Kundera and France Borel’s 1997 book Francis Bacon: Portraits and Self-Portraits.

The cover of <em>Bacon Portraits and Self Portraits</em> by Milan Kundera and France Borel (Thames & Hudson, 1997)

The cover of Bacon Portraits and Self Portraits
by Milan Kundera and France Borel (Thames & Hudson, 1997)

Despite the characteristic distortions of the artist’s visage, the house’s press release asserts that it shows him “elated” in the run-up to the Paris show, and because he was in the “throes” of his relationship with George Dyer, who would commit suicide just two days before the Paris retrospective’s opening.

The work comes to market in the same year that Tate Liverpool will show some 30 of the artist’s paintings, and the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, will stage a show devoted to the “School of London,” a group of figurative painters also including Freud and Frank Auerbach, among others.

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