Francis Bacon Painting to Be Displayed for the First Time in 45 Years

A Christie’s employee poses with Study of a Red Pope, 1962. 2nd Version 1971 by Francis Bacon at Christie’s. Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Christie’s announced today that a painting by 20th century figurative painter Francis Bacon, which hasn’t been on show since 1971, will be displayed for a short time in Christie’s New York showroom, before being auctioned in London next month.

According to a Christie’s press release, Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 will be displayed in Christie’s King Street showroom on Sept. 3, before being listed as the centerpiece of Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction during Frieze London.

For the painting, which was to be first exhibited in October 1971 at the Grand Palais in Paris, Bacon revised his Study of Red Pope 1962, adding a mirrorred reflection of his partner, George Dyer. Less than two days before the painting was to be exhibited, Dyer took his own life. For this reason, the painting is a “tragic premonition,” according to Francis Outred, Christie’s head of post-war and contemporary art.

“This painting gives me a shiver down my spine and I am extremely excited to be sharing it with the public this October,” Outred added.

The second version of Study of Red Pope 1962 has appeared in every major publication of Bacon’s work, but has not been displayed publicly since its purchase for a private collection in 1973, according to a Christie’s press release.

The painting is the last in Bacon’s series of papal portraits, and was partly inspired by Diego Velázquez’s 1650 Portrait of Pope Innocent X, the BBC reported. Bacon frequently depicted the Pope as a victim of his own status; they often appeared to be screaming, as a representation of the intense pressure of being God’s messenger on Earth.

The auction guide price for Study of Red Pope 1962, 2nd version 1971 is 60 million pounds—around $81 million U.S. dollars—Express reported. The record price for a Bacon painting is currently 89 million pounds, set in New York in 2013.