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This work shows a distorted version of the Portrait of Innocent Xpainted by Spanish artist Diego Velazquez in 1650. The work is one of the first in a series of around 50 variants of the Velázquez painting which Bacon executed throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. The paintings are widely regarded as highly successful modern re-interpretations of a classic of the western canon of visual art.
Of the old masters, Bacon favored Titian, Rembrandt, Velázquez and Francisco Goya's late works.He kept an extensive inventory of images for source material, but preferred not to confront the major works in person; he viewed Portrait of Innocent Xonly once. Having deliberately avoided it for years, he only saw it in person much later in his life.
The canvas is one of Bacon's masterpieces, completed when he was at the height of his creative powers.It has been the subject of detailed analysis by several major scholars. David Sylvester described it as, along with Head VI, "the finest pope Bacon produced."