☛ Ewbank’s: Sale MAR13A Lot 1194, discarded part of painting by Francis Bacon c. 1953/4, oil on canvas, 36″ x 24″. Estimate £ 25,000-35,000. Image and description © Ewbank’s.
It appears Francis Bacon once discarded one or multiple paintings which were not destroyed but rather recycled. They were cut into smaller pieces so other artists could paint on the unused side of the canvas. Some of those pieces where found in 2006 on the back of paintings made by previously lesser-known British artist, Lewis Todd. The discovery made the news recently because those pieces will be sold at auction on March 20, 2013. More importantly, some of those pieces –six are being sold by Ewbank’s– are believed to be sketches or earlier versions of one of Francis Bacon’s most famous painting:
The canvas shows what the yellow, white and black edge and leg of a chair, and some of the white Papal clothing, on a black and blue ground, bearing similarities to the Bacon painting “Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” (1953) (Ewbank)
The owner of Ewbank auction house, Chris Ewbank, said in an interview with the BBC:
“Someone, somewhere might even have a painting by Todd with a pope’s head on the back of it,” (BBC: “Hidden Francis Bacon scraps up for auction”, February 22, 2013)
One can compare with a reproduction of “Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X” below and read the complete story of how those discarded pieces were found over at the official site of The Estate of Francis Bacon: “Little known painter’s work hides Bacon scraps on reverse” (February 28, 2013)
This story reminded me of a comment made by Robert Musil during his address at the Memorial Service for Rainer Maria Rilke in 1927:
In the realm of the aesthetic, as you know, even imperfection and lack of completion have their value. (Precision and Soul: Essays and Addresses, tr. by Burton Pike and David S Luft, University of Chicago Press, p. 243)
That being said, I’m quite sure Musil wasn’t thinking about monetary value when he made that comment. For some reasons, I can’t help but think about Lewis Todd’s paintings which suddenly became the reverse (the hidden side) of Bacon’s pieces of discarded painting(s).
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- Francis Bacon: “If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.” (1966)
- Francis Bacon’s Last Interview, by Francis Giacobetti, 1991-1992