Bacon’s Study for Innocent X (1962)

Video included below

Francis Bacon's scenes can be confusing but make more sense when you recognize them as imaginative depictions of the inside of his own head, as Velazquez's scenes are too. Bacon therefore painted Pope Innocent X (based on Velazquez's portrait) as though the Pope is on a stage in the theater of his mind. Innocent in the original portrait was, in EPPH's view, a semi-divine alter ego of Velazquez as well. Unaware that the viewer looks inwards, others have failed to note that the Pope's cloak and the contour of his back are in the form of Bacon's own face, a mental image of himself. 

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Captions for image(s) above:

Bacon, Study for Innocent X (1962) Lithograph on paper

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Compare the form of the papal cloak to Bacon's portrait, taken the same year, and see the similarity in the shape of his curved nose and fleshy lips. The curve towards the top of the nose is a closed eye (for insight) though too low down. It probably represents his inner eye not his real one. The Pope's whole face, whitened, may represent the artist's "actual eyeball" because Bacon's eye, like the Pope himself, was a pathway for the divine.

See conclusion below

Captions for image(s) above:

Top L: Detail of Bacon's Study for Innocent X (1962)
Top R: Cartier-Bresson, Portrait of Bacon in his Studio (1962) Detail.

Click image to enlarge.

As in Cubism, where faces are also deformed and fragmented, the little-known purpose behind Bacon's disfigurations is the depiction of a mental image. (See the blog "Cubism Explained" for why mental images are fragmented and multi-perspectival.) We are, after all, looking inside the head of Bacon-as-Velazquez where Bacon's artistic persona assumes that of another artist's, an artist already canonized in his mind. Bacon's head (a symbol for his creative mind) is naturally filled with both blood and fertility which explains, in turn, the overall colors of the image: red and green.

Another practical lesson behind Bacon's self-evident illusion is that to see the obvious, you need to look past it.

 

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 09 May 2013. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.