Portrait of Pope Innocent X

Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) was an Irish-born British figurative painter known for his bold, grotesque, emotionally charged and raw imagery.

This powerful and disturbing painting by Francis Bacon was one of the famous Pope paintings from the 1950s. It is a study of a painting of the Pope done 300 years earlier by Diego Velázquez.

In contrast to the painting that inspired this one, the pope appears to embody existential horror. We are confronted by a figure that seems trapped and lost in sheer horror. By comparing the later painting, the former takes on a different feel, almost as if it covers over existential despair. Bacon's study transforms the original painting and expresses a type of existential angst that came to maturity in Europe in the twentieth century with two World Wars and the Holocaust.