Francis Bacon portrait of Lucian Freud sets records in $52m sale

Work painted in 1964 has become British artist's most expensive work sold by auction

Francis Bacon's 'Study for Portrait of Lucian Freud' from 1964 was sold by Sotheby's in London. Getty Images
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A Francis Bacon painting of Lucian Freud has sold for £43.4 million ($52m) on its auction debut, making it the most valuable single panel piece by the artist, Sotheby’s said.

Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud has not been seen publicly for nearly six decades, having remained in the same private European collection for 40 years.

After exceeding its estimate of £35 million when it went under the hammer on Wednesday at Sotheby’s British Art: The Jubilee Auction, the piece set a series of auction records.

Sotheby’s said that aside from becoming the most expensive single panel by Bacon, it has also become the most valuable painting by the artist sold in London in British pounds.

It has also claimed the title of the highest sale at an auction in London during this summer season to date, Sotheby’s reported.

The artwork was painted by British artist Bacon in 1964 and based on a photograph of his fellow art contemporary Freud, taken in the same year by the artists’ mutual friend, John Deakin.

It was last seen on display in 1965 when it was on show as the central panel of a large-scale triptych as part of a travelling exhibition to Hamburg and Stockholm.

The piece was also displayed on its own in Dublin in the same year.

Bacon separated the three individual works of the triptych shortly after they were created, with the left-hand panel residing in a private collection and the right-hand piece belonging to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Freud and Bacon had been friends for 20 years prior to Bacon’s creation of Study For Portrait Of Lucian Freud and shared a friendship for more than 40 years before relations soured and the relationship ended in the mid-1980s.

The artists painted each other on numerous occasions, with Freud often painting from real-life and Bacon preferring to work from photographs.

Updated: June 30, 2022, 7:30 AM