Bacon, 1993, Michael Peppiatt says, “Triptych, 1976, surely ranks among the greatest of Bacon’s paintings” (p. 106). Dense with symbolism, the three panels in Triptych, 1976, are filled with a complex, highly charged allegory and supreme paint-handling which shows Bacon’s imagination at its highest pitch. While living and working in Paris, Bacon produced one of his most powerful paintings on the subject and a masterpiece within his oeuvre. This was the climax of one of the most sustained and productive periods in his career, following the incredible success of his 1971 retrospective at the Grand Palais in Paris. In Triptych, 1976, Bacon draws on Ancient Greek mythology to express his personal tragedy. At the zenith of his mature career, Bacon revisits Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy, the same Greek text that inspired Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion, 1944, a painting which announced his debut on the world stage. A parallel to that early masterpiece, the present work reveals in a single composition the entire range of Bacon’s iconography over three decades of painting, centering on the tortured figure of Prometheus, the bringer of fire to mankind and the subject of Aeschylus’ play Prometheus Bound. As punishment for this act, the gods chained Prometheus to a rock where his perpetually regenerating liver is constantly gnawed by a bird of
prey. In either side panel, two ominous portraits, like propaganda posters, bear witness to the scene taking place, raised up on structures reminiscent of the rails used for movie-cameras. In the foreground, an imbroglio of human forms – half-dressed, half-naked – exhibit some of the best paint-handling witnessed anywhere in Bacon’s oeuvre, contrasted against areas of bare canvas, Letraset and thick pools of white oil. In the right, two heads and a row of teeth emerge from the conflation of anatomical forms and flesh-coloured shadows. The work is being offered from a Private European Collection. For Bacon sales history, please see the Note to Editors at the end of release.
Another highlight of the sale is Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow from 1956, a radiantly beautiful and monumental masterpiece in the artist’s oeuvre (pictured here, est. in excess of $35 million). In this work the master abstract painter reduces colors to their essence while simultaneously transforming them into form, space, and light. As with many of his paintings from 1950-1956, the present work has a compelling sense of harmony and order as Rothko’s stratification of color achieves its highest level of success. Rothko’s post-war paintings are deeply seeded in an art historical understanding, as he both looked to the past for inspiration and forged ahead into an uncharted future. Rich exuberance of emotive color combined with simplicity and directness define Rothko’s quintessential tense and vibrant equilibrium that can be observed in Orange, Red, Yellow. Three rectangles of color vie for predominance within the overall composition and the actual frame of the canvas. Against an undefined colored background, the rectangles radiate energy and light. The work is completely frontal, yet