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Francis Bacon's painting sells for £43.3million

A famous painting by the Irish-born British artist Francis Bacon depicting fellow UK-based painter Lucian Freud sold last week for £43.3million ($52.5 million, 50.2 million euros), according to Sotheby’s auction house.

The sale marks a new record as the highest price at auction for a painting by Bacon sold in London and also for any single panel painting by the late artist.

The artwork, titled ‘Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud’, was painted in 1964 and “exemplifies an iconic pairing of two of the most significant painters within the canon of twentieth-century art”, said the auction house.

The figurative and avant-garde imagery depicts a restless, bare-chested Freud, with a distorted, muddled face, sitting on a bench with a dark nocturnal backing. 

“The present work is testament to Francis Bacon’s capacity to provoke emotion and capture in paint the complexities of the human psyche,” added Sotheby’s.

In life, the two artists were close friends but also artistic rivals fascinated by the human figure and sat for each other on multiple occasions. 

Bacon’s 1969 triptych ‘Three Studies of Lucian Freud’ sold in 2013 for $142.4 million and held the record for the most expensive work of art at auction until being usurped by Picasso’s ‘The Women of Algiers (Version O)’ in 2015.

The 1969 work consisted of three panels that each depict Freud’s form from a different angle as he sits on the same chair. This work now resides in the New York gallery. 

Bacon was born in 1909 in Dublin, Ireland and spent most of his life in the UK before his death in 1992 in Madrid, Spain. Meanwhile, his younger rival and muse Freud was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1922 and died in London, UK, in 2011.

For more Francis Bacon art, watch a virtual tour of his Man and Beast exhibition below.