Giant Francis Bacon triptych expected to fetch more than £46m at auction

Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus was inspired by the artist's tumultuous relationship with his parents.

A giant Francis Bacon triptych is set to fetch more than £46 million (60 million US dollars) at auction.

Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus was painted in the final decade of the Irish-born artist’s career in 1981, when he was in his 70s.

It will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York.

Described as a “monumental work”, each panel is more than 6ft (almost 2m) tall.

Another Bacon Triptych, Three Studies Of Lucian Freud, set an auction record for any work of art in 2013 when it sold for 142.2 million US dollars (£110 million).

The record was later eclipsed, but Sotheby’s said Bacon “remains the most valuable British artist of all time”.

Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus draws on the artist’s tumultuous relationship with his parents.

The Greek tragedy in the title of the painting tells the story of a man who kills his mother in revenge for the murder of his father.

Bacon’s father is said to have despised his son’s effeminate manner.

When the artist was a teenager, he is said to have been thrown out of the family home when his father discovered him wearing his mother’s underwear while admiring himself in the mirror.

Experts say the painting is one of the “most ambitious, enigmatic, and important works of Bacon’s oeuvre”.

Sotheby’s contemporary art sale
Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus, 1981 by Francis Bacon during a preview at Sotheby’s in London ahead of it being auctioned in New York (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Alex Branczik, head of contemporary art for Sotheby’s Europe, said: “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.

“The result is an arresting and original vision, a true masterpiece that confirms Bacon’s standing in the pantheon of modern masters.”

Billionaire Norwegian collector and businessman Hans Rasmus Astrup bought the painting in 1984.

The work has been in the care of a private museum he founded, Astrup Fearnley Museet, in Oslo, Norway.

Proceeds from the sale will be used to secure long-term funding of the museum, including the funding of future acquisitions.

Triptych Inspired By The Oresteia Of Aeschylus by Francis Bacon will go under the hammer at the Contemporary Art Evening Auction in New York on May 13

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