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Francis Bacon triptych hitting the auction block at Sotheby's in May


Agence France-Presse

 /  Mon, March 16, 2020  /  09:04 am

Francis Bacon's 'Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus' will likely be one of the highlights of Sotheby's upcoming Contemporary Art evening sale.

"Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus" will be offered during Sotheby's Contemporary Art evening sale on May 13 in New York City.

The three-panel work is one of 28 large-format triptychs that the Irish-born painter created between 1962 and 1991-- six of which appeared at auction in recent years.

Among them were "Triptych" (1976), "Three Studies for a Portrait of John Edwards" (1984) and "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" (1969), which achieved Bacon's highest prices at auction.

The 1969 triptych momentarily became the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction, when it fetched a staggering $142.4 million after ten minutes of heated competition at Christie's New York in 2013.

"Three Studies of Lucian Freud" surpassed his pre-sale estimate of $85 million and has since remained Bacon's all-time auction record.

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"Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus" could follow the same trend in May during Sotheby's Contemporary Art evening sale, where the three-panel work will likely exceed his $60 million estimate.

This 1981 triptych finds Bacon revisiting the same classical text that inspired his seminal "Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion," which propelled him onto the world stage in 1962.

"Francis Bacon is the great tragedian of his age. In this ambitious triptych, the painter confronts Aeschylus, the progenitor of tragedy, so that the timeless power of the Ancient Greek genre is brought to bear on the human condition in the 20th century," Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art for Sotheby's Europe, said in a statement.

In a release announcing the auction, Sotheby's revealed that "Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus" comes from the private art collection of Norwegian collector Hans Rasmus Astrup.

Following the acquisition in 1984, the three-panel work has been held at Oslo's Astrup Fearnley Museet, which was founded by the billionaire entrepreneur in 1993 to manage his collection and allow public access to these private holdings.

The auction house also announced that proceeds from the sale of "Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus" will support the Astrup Fearnley Museet.

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