© The Estate of Francis Bacon
Fragment of illustration of Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, c. 1650, from Elizabeth Du Gué Trapier, Velázquez (New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1948)
Between 1946 and 1971, Bacon created numerous paintings based on Diego Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, c.1650. The earliest one, ‘Landscape with Pope/Dictator’, which was painted in Monaco around 1946, has only recently been rediscovered. ‘I became obsessed by this painting and I bought photograph after photograph of it. I really think that was my first subject,’ Bacon recalled. However, in hindsight he said that he regarded his paintings of the subject as a ‘failure’. Today, Bacon’s Pope paintings are among his best-known and most iconic works.