A Francis Bacon triptych of his lover George Dyer has brought $45.4 million dollars at auction in London.
The figurative painter’s 1967 artwork is believed to be based on photos taken by his friend John Deakin.
Presented in three frames, “Three Studies for Portrait of George Dyer” is one of just five triptychs of Dyer known to exist in the small-format, and had never before appeared at auction.
The painting, which has remained in the same private collection since 1970, shows Dyer dressed in a camel jumper set against a beige background, his face distorted.
It was created at the height of their affair and exhibited in Bacon’s 1971 retrospective at Paris’ Grand Palais.
Dyer tragically killed himself on the night of the important exhibition, which haunted Bacon for years afterwards. He continued to paint Dyer, who features in his famous Black Triptychs.
“The driving force tonight was passion,” said Sotheby’s Cheyenne Westphal. “The Bacon was bought by collectors who truly wanted to own it. It was a completely private market that came from virtually every side of the world and people wanted to own this wonderful piece and live with it.”
Four telephone bidders battled for the painting with Helena Newman, chairwoman of Sotheby’s Impressionist and Modern Art department in Europe, winning.
Bacon’s large-scale triptych, “Three Studies of Lucien Freud”, sold for $142 million dollars at Christie’s last November to set the record for the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.