Francis Bacon’s Portraits from Life
The custodians of this late portrait of Bacon, the Dulwich Picture Gallery, have assigned the date of 1622 as its year of origin. It is difficult to imagine, however, that Francis would have commissioned a picture of himself still wearing the robes of Lord Chancellor in 1622, a title he had to relinquish the previous year. It is more likely to suppose that the painting was made in 1621, prior to his disgrace on trumped up charges of corruption. Apparently, this head and shoulders portrait of Francis at the age of 60 derives from the full-length original by Paul van Somer I at Gorhambury House. However, this copy is less successful than others, due to subtle distortions in the features of the face. The nose is too long, the eybrows are raised giving Francis an expression of mild surprise, and the lower lip of the mouth is exaggerated. Unlike the expert handling of the fine details of the ruff and robe, the treatment of the complexion of the face is rather crude and grey. Perhaps this had nothing to do with the fact that Francis gave this portrait away to relatives of his wife’s family.