One of the most ‘seductive’ female potraits ever produced by Francis Bacon sold at auction for £19million yesterday.
Portrait of Henrietta Moraes, one of his favourite models, beat its estimate by £1million, making a total sale price including fees and taxes of £21,321,250.
Bidding began at £13million shortly before 7.25pm at Christie’s in London, but leapt to the final figure in just five minutes.
It was snapped up by an anonymous telephone buyer, who saw off competition from two other phone bidders and a saleroom bid as the price was raised at £500,000 a time.
Produced in 1963, it is one of the most valuable pieces to be sold at a post-War and contemporary art sale at the auction house, a spokesman said.
The highest selling work in this category was another piece by Bacon, Triptych, which went for £26.3million in February 2008.
Portrait of Henrietta Moraes is an oil on canvas, raw with colour and texture, which measures 65in (165cm) by 56in (142cm) and shows the model sprawled across a bed.
The painting, which has not been seen in public for 15 years, is described as one of Bacon’s ‘most seductive and sexually charged’ paintings.
Since the day it was created the work has only had two owners.
The the present owner who offered the item for sale was not disclosed by Christie’s, who said it came from a ‘distinguished’ New York collection which acquired it in 1983.
Francis Outred, Christie’s head of post-war and contemporary art, said: ‘The carefully constructed mood through colour is forcefully invaded by the extraordinary swipes of the loaded brush, which create the woman’s voluptuous figure.
‘This juxtoposition of the sheer beauty of colour with the brutal physicality of paint is what makes Bacon’s art so remarkable.’
Bacon was born in Dublin in 1909 to English parents and moved to London in 1926.
Although he had no formal training as an artist, he started to exhibit his work in the 1930s and a decade later he was causing a sensation among the artistic community with his angst-ridden paintings of twisted and mutated forms.
He died of a heart attack in Madrid in 1992. Today his work is among the most popular of 20th century art at auction.
The most expensive painting sold at Christie’s auction house in London is Le bassin aux nymphéas.
The painting by Claude Monet, sold for £40,921,250 - a world record price for the artist at auction in June 2008.
The current world record price was paid for The Card Players by Paul Cezanne.
It was sold to Qatar’s royal family last year for more than £250million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art.