Francis Bacon’s painting ‘Study after Velázquez’ (1950), converted into a series of giclée prints by HENI in 2016, is one of the first in his celebrated series of ‘screaming popes’. While the manifold suggestive potentials of these images remain enigmatic, they have become synonymous with the artist’s aesthetic and complicated relationships with authority figures, conveyed through tortured bodily distortions.

This image was characteristically based on Diego Velázquez’s ‘Portrait of Pope Innocent X’ (1650), which Bacon studied extensively through photographs but always refused to see in real life for fear of turning his efforts into lifeless imitations. This work represents both a homage to Velázquez’s portrait and a study on the potential translation of sound onto canvas. His mouth opens in eternal screams, the pope’s voice is muffled by drapes, contained by a cage and muted by dark, rich colours.

If Velázquez’s original portrait conveys power and self‐assurance, Bacon’s version subverts these themes. The primal scream of the figure, suspended into a featureless void, is isolated from any narrative context and conveys a kind of perpetual existential despair. Freed from the constraints of portraiture, this image embodies a kind of archetypal emotional expression, represented through anatomical distortions and sombre colours.




110 x 76.1cm


Diasec-mounted Giclée print on aluminium panel

Edition Size



Digitally signed & numbered on the reverse


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