Review of Francis Bacon's Head VI, 1949.
Article by: Stephanie Taylor - First Published: 24/10/2011
Francis Bacon was the master of self destruction within modern art. He had an amazing ability to portray violence and create unsettling images. With the use of the human figure, he played around with distortion through human actions and emotion, creating disturbed representations, which often involved political undercurrents.
'Head VI', painted in 1949 depicts Bacon's disturbed portrayal of pope Innocent IX which was originally painted by Diego Velazquez (1599-1660). The pope appears tortured inside a glass box, his face screams with mercy and his flesh is stretched and pulled from his face; whitened by the horror of the situation. Bacon seems to have put the pope on a pedestal, highlighting the intensity of torture which the pope has been inflicted with. Bacon deals with human frailty and self destruction in this image, he states 'you must not forget the beauty of the colour of a piece of meat', suggesting that within the realms of horror, beauty must not be forgotten. This is one of Bacon's greatest masterpieces, and one of the most highly recognized of Bacon's paintings.
COMMENT BY: Teagan Micks
I don't mean to nit-pick here as to the factual details of this article, however I do believe it's worth pointing out that the original painting that inspired Bacon's Head VI was not a portrait of Pope Innocent IX, but rather a portrait of Pope Innocent X. A portrait of Pope Innocent IX would not have been possible by Velázquez seeing as Pope Innocent IX died on December 30th, 1591, and Velázquez--though we have no official date of birth for him--was baptized as an infant on the 6th of June in 1599. We do know that Velázquez did do the portrait of Innocent X, and every source that I remember coming across in regards to this painting (Head VI) has always listed Velázquez' portrait of Innocent X as the inspiration for the piece.
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