He focuses his analysis on two popes, the image of the painting of Innocent X by Velazquez and a photograph of the Pope of his time, Pius XII. Reigning since 1939, Pius XII had been confronted with the atrocities of war and racism with an efficiency that would later be disputed. His elongated head and hollow cheeks perfectly illustrate the theme chosen by Bacon.
On February 11 in London, Christie's sells Study for a head painted by Bacon in 1955, oil on canvas 102 x 77 cm, lot 17.
In the expressive style of the artist, the face of the pope is perfectly recognizable, and his glasses were not omitted. The dark colors on a black background increase the tragic feeling that haunts Francis after the Battleship Potemkin.
What was happening into the troubled mind of the artist ? A continuity of style is established between this painting and his first self-portrait, made in the following year, as if Francis suddenly understood that the vulnerability of others that aroused his discomfort should also and especially apply to himself.
The critical imaging of the men of power will experience another climax in 1972 with Mao's portrait by Warhol.