The Tricky Provenance of a Bacon Portrait at Christie’s

Francis Bacon “Study for Self-Portrait,” 1964. (Courtesy Christie’s)

In her Inside Art column this week, Carol Vogel discusses a 1964 painting by Francis Bacon that combines Bacon’s face with the body of his friend and contemporary Lucian Freud. The painting will be for sale at Christie’s in London next week and is described by the auction house as “an exciting new discovery.” Its estimate is available on request, but apparently Christie’s has told clients they are expecting it to sell for £20 million, or about $31.3 million. But, Ms. Vogel writes:

What Christie’s has not disclosed in the provenance is that the painting was up for sale at Christie’s in New York in November 2008, when it did not draw a single bid. The work was also the subject of a lawsuit, settled last July, filed in March 2009 in the United States District Court in Manhattan by a family trust led by the Connecticut collector George A. Weiss. The trust said that Christie’s had reneged on a $40 million guarantee, which is an undisclosed sum promised the seller regardless of a sale’s outcome.

“Some experts with knowledge of the lawsuit,” according to Ms. Vogel, said that Christie’s ended up giving the trust something close to $40 million. Read more about it here.