7.12.2010

Francis Bacon's "Figure with Meat" (1954)

photo of Francis Bacon by Jane Brown
Back to the dark side... 

One of Francis Bacon's 45 studies after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X (which was painted almost exactly 300 years earlier) features two sides of beef, standing in for the sumptuous velvet draperies in the original. The high, vaulted shapes of the animal's ribcage and pelvis seem to echo the architecture of a cathedral, a bloody cathedral hemmed in by the dark but clearly visible walls and ceiling of the claustrophobically small surrounding room:


Some insights into this painting, from the website of the Art Institute of Chicago:
 Permeated by tormented visions of humanity, Francis Bacon’s paintings embody the ethos of the postwar era. Beginning in the late 1940s, Bacon created a series of works modeled on Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1649/50), in which he transformed the celebrated masterpiece into grotesque, almost nightmarish compositions. In this version, he replaced the noble drapery framing the central figure with two sides of beef, directly quoting Rembrandt van Rijn and Chaim Soutine’s haunting images of raw meat. By linking the pope with these carcasses, Bacon allowed the viewer to interpret the pope alternately as a depraved butcher, or as a victim like the slaughtered animal hanging behind him.
Bacon's inspiration: Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X:

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