A six-and-a-half-foot-long triptych painting by Francis Bacon could fetch between £35 million and £55 million ($47.4 million and $74.5 million) at Christie’s next month. Triptych 1986-7 (1986–87) will make its auction debut after three decades in private hands. The painting will hit the auction block during Christie’s 20th-century and contemporary art evening sale in London on March 1.
Two of the painting’s three sections each feature a single figure. In the first, there is a man donning a grey suit and top hat—a figure drawing on a press image of Woodrow Wilson after signing the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. The second figure is meant to represent Bacon’s then-partner, John Edwards, whose nude body appears abstracted. The third canvas depicts a sheet of paper that appears to be stained with blood in reference to the 1940 assassination of political dissident Leon Trotsky.
“The rare, large-scale triptych format offered Bacon the opportunity to trace his life back through the historic events of the 20th century,” Katharine Arnold, head of Christie’s postwar and contemporary art department in Europe, said in a statement.
Bacon produced the work while living in England, and it is one of 28 large-scale triptychs that Bacon created throughout his career. Its anonymous seller purchased the work in 2007 from the Marlborough Gallery in New York. First shown at Marlborough Gallery in 1988, the work was last exhibited at a Centre Pompidou show devoted to Bacon in 2020.
Other triptychs by Bacon have brought some of the highest prices for the artist at auction. In June 2020, as the pandemic lockdown lifted in some parts of the world, a large-scale Bacon triptych from the collection of collector Hans Rasmus Astrup sold at Sotheby’s for $84.6 million, becoming the most expensive artwork sold at auction that year.