Big Bucks For Francis Bacon And Lucian Freud At Christies

Francis Bacon’s 1963 Portrait of Henrietta Moraes sold for nearly £20 million, while newly discovered Freud drawing doubles pre-sale estimate at a Christie’s sale of post-war and contemporary art

The painting was described in the catalogue as ‘the most seductive painting of a female figure ever realised by Francis Bacon’. Strangely, Christie’s had declined to publish a pre-sale estimate, intimating only that the guide price was obtainable ‘on request’. Bidding opened at £12 million, but very quickly leapt up in increments of £500,000 before the hammer fell at £19 million. The winner of the lot was an anonymous phone bidder who, adding the buyers’ premium, parted with £21,321,250 for the work. The seller of the painting had bought the painting from a Swiss gallery in 1983 for an undisclosed sum.

Since Bacon’s death in 1992, the price of his work has have soared. Alongside Picasso, he is now revered as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. The record price at auction for one of his paintings was achieved at Sotheby’s, New York, in 2008 when his 1976 Triptych sold for $86.3 million. It was rumoured that the buyer was was Russian billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.

Also at the Christies sale was a newly discovered Irish drawing by Lucian Freud, which sold for more than double its estimate, at £657,250. The drawing, on paper, measuring 17.5in by 22in, shows a boat beached at low tide beside the pier with a Connemara pony in the distance. The work, Boat, Connemara, was drawn during the Freud’s 1948 visit o the Zetland Hotel overlooking Cashel Bay, in County Galway. Christie’s said the Connemara drawing was one of only two Irish works by the artist.

Not soon afterwards, during the 1950s, Freud had given up drawing to devote himself to the oil paintings for which he is best know. He was a friend of Bacon and died last year.

Among other highlights in last night’s auction, an untitled painting of the letters “FOOL” sold for £4.9 million, which was made by American artist Christopher Wool.

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