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Francis Bacon’s Portraits from Life

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Date: 1618-21? Artist: unknown
Location: Gainsborough Old Hall
Medium: oil on canvas
Provenance: on loan from a private collection
Image credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Although damaged and discoloured, this is perhaps the most accomplished of all the portraits we have of Sir Francis Bacon. Art historians have yet to identify the artist who painted it. Moreover, Art UK, Alamy and Wikimedia all assert that it dates from c.1590, which is clearly impossible. Francis is wearing the robe of the Lord High Chancellor while holding the purse of the Great Seal in his left hand, so the picture must date from between 1618-21. Variations of the pose and composition of this painting recur in the portraits of Bacon from the studio of Paul van Somer I which date from around the same time. However, in this picture the artist has captured a more realistic and intimate presence of the sitter, which suggests that it was painted directly from life.