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Painted when the artist had just turned 60, the work depicts a distorted image of the red-robed pope sitting on a dark red chair on a platform inside a cuboid cage indicated by thin black lines, standing on a light brownish yellow floor with a curved lighter red wall behind. The original measured 78"x55.75."
It sold at Sotheby's New York for $52.7 million in 2007.
Bacon's series of Popes, largely influenced by Velázquez's famous portrait of Pope Innocent X (1650, Galeria Doria Pamphili, Rome) are striking images which further develop motifs already found in his earlier works, like the "Study for Three Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion", such as the screaming open mouth. The figures of the popes, pictorially isolated by partly curved parallel lines indicating psychological forces and symbolizing inner energy like strength of feeling, are alienated from their original representation and, stripped of their representation of power to allegories of suffering humanity.