Bacon triptych poised to make $100m in New York auction

Painting depicts John Edwards, who received Lord Mayor’s award for services to Dublin after donating contents of the artist’s studio to city’s Hugh Lane Gallery

Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards. Photograph: Christie’s Images Ltd

Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards. Photograph: Christie’s Images Ltd


Another painting by Dublin-born artist Francis Bacon is poised to sell for

$100 million, or more, at auction in New York tomorrow.

Christie’s will offer the triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards in a sale of ‘Post-War and Contemporary Art’ in Manhattan.

Last year, also in New York, Christie’s sold a similar, life-size triptych by Bacon Three Studies of Lucian Freud for $142.4 million(€105.3 million), the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction.

Bacon created 28 such triptychs. Many are in museums but 16 remain in private ownership. This latest example to appear on the market dates from 1984 and depicts John Edwards, an illiterate barman in London’s East End who was Bacon’s closest companion.

‘Incredible tenderness’
Christie’s said the triptych “shows an incredible tenderness and harmony that was prompted by Bacon’s paternal relationship with the sitter” and “the permanent legacy of one of the most powerful relationships that Bacon had ever experienced”.

When Bacon died in 1992, Mr Edwards inherited his estate and subsequently donated the artist’s studio to the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin for which he was honoured, in 2001, with a Lord Mayor’s Award by Cllr Maurice Ahern. He later moved to Thailand where he died 11 years ago.

During the past decade Bacon’s paintings have soared in value and now routinely sell for tens of millions.

Christie’s has not disclosed the name of the vendor of Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards. It is believed to be Pierre Chen, a Taiwanese businessman who acquired it 10 years ago for about $15 million in a private transaction.

The buyer of last year’s record-breaking Three Studies of Lucian Freud is reputed to be Elaine Wynn, the former wife of a Las Vegas casino operator.

Private owners of Francis Bacon paintings rarely comment publicly. But Russia’s richest woman, Elena Baturina, who owns Dublin’s Morrison Hotel, in an interview this month with the Sunday Independent, said she had acquired an unnamed painting by Bacon before the prices went “crazy”.