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Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror has remained in the same private collection for more than 30 years. Photo: Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s 9 May 2012 Contemporary Art Evening Sale in New York will feature Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror, among the most powerful and sophisticated paintings by Francis Bacon. The work incorporates some of the artist’s most important themes and iconography, synchronizing the essence of Bacon’s life and art in an extraordinary painting. Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror was included in the legendary 1977 exhibition at Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, where it was shown alongside Triptych, 1976, which holds the record price for any work of Contemporary art at auction. The present owners purchased the painting at that exhibition and it has not appeared on the market since. Figure Writing Reflected In Mirror is estimated to fetch $30/40 million and will be exhibited in London beginning 13 April before going on view in New York.

The writing figure represents both Bacon’s partner George Dyer and the artist himself. By giving the figure Dyer’s distinctive profile and his own distinctive sweep of hair, Bacon conflates the two salient subjects that were features of paintings throughout his career. Rather than a precise inverted reflection, the mirror shows a second figure. The near-nakedness and white underwear of both though is strongly reminiscent of the famous photographs of George Dyer taken by John Deakin in Bacon’s studio in about 1965.

The seated man, who is brought to life with Bacon’s inimitably urgent brushwork, is confronted by the sheet before him; his creative struggle betrayed by the discarded efforts on the ground. The writing figure here is a direct manifestation of Bacon’s obsession with the written word, which saw him draw inspiration from literary classics ranging from Aeschylus to T.S. Eliot. Despite his fixation, the current work is the artist’s only canvas to feature someone writing.