Lot 7
  • 7


1,300,000 - 1,800,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • Francis Bacon
  • Head
  • oil on canvas
  • 83 x 66,5 cm; 32 2/3 x 26 3/16 in.
  • Executed in 1949.


Robert Buhler, London (acquired from the artist studio circa 1951)
Piccadilly Gallery, London
Luca Scacchi Gracco, Milan
Galleria La Medusa, Rome
Private Collection, Italy
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Canada
Sotheby's London, Contemporary Art Evening Auction, 26 June 2012, lot 46
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner


Rome, Galleria La Medusa, Paragone: Inghilterra, Stati Uniti, June 1961
Milan, La Galleria del Credito Valtellinese, L'anormalità dell'arte, 1993, n.p., illustrated
Malmö, Konsthall, Francis Bacon, Marlene Dumas: The Peculiarity of Being Human, 1995, p. 29, illustrated, p. 83, illustrated in colour


John Rothenstein and Ronald Alley, Francis Bacon, London 1964, n.p., no. A7, illustrated
Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon: New Studies, Centenary Essays, 2009, p. 239, no. 163, illustrated in colour
Martin Harrison, Francis Bacon, Catalogue Raisonné, Volume II, 1929-57, p.201, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Head (c. 1949) incarne avec force cette idée traversant l'oeuvre de Bacon et
nous rappelant à quel point l'homme est vulnérable et sa condition éphémère.
Michael Peppiatt

Over the course of 1948 and 1949, Francis Bacon
intensively studied a series of Heads, placing
this particular work from 1949 amongst the most
important and rare bodies of work by the artist.
This series laid the foundation for many of his
explorations of portraiture during the decades
ahead. Identical in size and with its similar
balanced palette of cool greys and cold whites, the
present lot is most closely related to Head III, 1949
sold at auction for 10,442,500 pounds in 2013 and
current world record holder for a work by Bacon
from the 1940's.
The second half of this decade manifests an
important shift in the international recognition
of the artist's talent with the start of a successful
collaboration with Erica Brausen, owner of the
Hanover Gallery. The London gallerist donated a
work from the artist to Alfred Barr for the Museum
of Modern Art in New York in 1948, effectively
kicking off in his global career. His very first
solo exhibition opened at the Hanover Gallery
only a year later, in November 1949, featuring an
important group of six Heads. After having seen
these works, the proclaimed art critic and British
painter Wyndham Lewis's remarks in The Demon of
Progress in the Arts testify to his enthusiasm about
Bacon: "he is one of the most powerful artists in
Europe" and makes the striking comparison with
the Spanish master Velázquez; "Not one of the
contemporary young artists paints as grandiosely
as Bacon. Some of his paintings remind me of
Velázquez and, like the master, he prefers black".
(Wyndham Lewis in The Listener, 17 November
1949, p. 860).
Indeed, the mysterious composition and faded
face of the personage in Head highlights his
revolutionary post-war vision and may echo the
influence of Old Masters' portraiture, such as
Velázquez, Rembrandt or Michelangelo. On this
matter Bacon affirms "I'm trying to do things that
are very "particularized", such as portraits. And
there are portraits of people, but, when you come
to analyze them, you won't know them at all, or it'll
be very difficult to see, how the image was made.
[...] The other day, for example, I painted someone's
head. And the eyes, the nose and the mouth were, if
you analyze them, just forms that had nothing to do
with eyes, noses or mouth." (Francis Bacon in L'art
de l'impossible, tome 1, p.33-34).
As Michael Peppiatt notes, Head also reflects
Bacon's "fascination for pleated drapes (an interest
dating back to his early career as a designer/
decorator)" and "the 'shuttering' effect that
transparent drapes created", taking "on Titian's
famous portrait of Cardinal Filippo Archinto" and
"experimenting with the ways a diaphanous 'veil'
of this kind could both distort and intensify the
features of a sitter by half-obscuring them."
Along with the handful of other paintings that
survived the brutality of Bacon's hand in the early
1940s, the exceptionally rare surviving paintings
from the Head series amount to a total of only 9
canvasses, giving us a privileged and fresh insight
into the evolution of his radical genius. Head being
a superior and historical example of his practice, it
characterizes Bacon's artistic strength and focus,
inhabiting the space between bitter post-war reality
and somber imagination.