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Bacon triptych, once owned by Roald Dahl, to lead Christie’s New York sales in May

The auction house is also selling works by Picasso, Ernst and Lichtenstein to benefit Cleveland Clinic

by Gabriella Angeleti, Helen Stoilas  |  24 February 2017
Bacon triptych, once owned by Roald Dahl, to lead Christie’s New York sales in May
Francis Bacon, Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963)
Christie’s has offered an early peek at the works consigned for its 20th-century art auctions in New York in May, which will be led by Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies for a Portrait of George Dyer (1963), and include pieces by Picasso, Ernst, Giacometti, and Lichtenstein.

The triple portrait is the first Bacon ever made of his longtime muse and lover George Dyer—he would go on to use him as a subject in some 40 paintings—and was created at the very start of their relationship. “George Dyer is to Bacon what Dora Maar was to Picasso,” says Loic Gouzer, Christie’s deputy chairman for post-war and contemporary art. “He is arguably the most important model of the second half of the 20th century, because Dyer’s persona as well and physical traits acted as a catalyst for Bacon’s pictorial breakthroughs.”

The work, estimated to make between $50m to $70m, was once owned by the British author Roald Dahl, a close friend of Bacon’s. Bloomberg has identified the current owner as the French actor Francis Lombrail, who has held it for 25 years and loaned it to a number of exhibitions dedicated to the artist, including the travelling retrospective in 2008-09 that was shown at London’s Tate Britain, Madrid’s Prado, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum. Christie's sold another triptych by Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (1969) in 2013, which broke the record at the time for the most expensive work sold at auction when it made $142.4m against an estimate of $85m.

The auction house will also offer eight works from the collection of Sydell Miller with all proceeds to be donated to the Cleveland Clinic Heart & Vascular Institute, a non-profit medical centre located in Ohio. Miller, an American philanthropist, is a member of the centre’s board of trustees.
From left: Pablo Picasso, Femme assise dans un fauteuil (1917-20, est $20m-$30m); Roy Lichtenstein, Expressionist Head (1980, est $2.5m-$3.5m); Marc Chagall, Les trois cierges, (1939, estimate on request)
The works, which carry a total estimate of $37m to $59m, were praised by Christie’s chairman Laura Paulson as “remarkable” and will tour London, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Los Angeles before they are auctioned in New York. The 15 May Impressionist and Modern art evening sale will feature Picasso's early painting Femme assise dans un fauteuil (1917-20, est $20m-$30m), owned by the artist's family until 1984 and Miller since 2000, as well as a major work by Chagall, Les Trois Cierges (1939, estimate on request).

Slated for the 17 May post-war and contemporary art evening sale is a cast, made during the artist's lifetime, of Alberto Giacometti’s sculpture of his wife, Buste d’Annette VI (conceived 1962, cast 1964, est $1.5m-$2.5m), as well as works by Jean Dubuffet and Louise Bourgeois.

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