Journal Article

Painting the Pope: An Analysis of Francis Bacon's <i>Study After Velázquez's Portrait of Innocent X</i>

Rina Arya

in Literature and Theology

Volume 23, issue 1, pages 33-50
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0269-1205
Published online September 2008 | e-ISSN: 1477-4623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/litthe/frn039
Painting the Pope: An Analysis of Francis Bacon's Study After Velázquez's Portrait of Innocent X

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In many discussions of his work Bacon is disparaging about religion, and more specifically, Christianity. And yet, in spite of his unequivocal stance, throughout his oeuvre he was relentlessly drawn towards the symbols of the Christian tradition, especially the motif of the Crucifixion and the Pope. In this article I want to compare Velázquez's painting of Pope Innocent X (1650) and Bacon's Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Innocent X (1953) in order to assess the reasons that explain Bacon's obsession with the image of the Pope. His descriptor ‘study after’ in the title qualifies his aims, which entailed deconstructing the Velázquez painting and reappropriating it for his own ends. I think it fitting to describe Bacon's version as being a mirror-image or photographic negative of Velázquez's. And although Bacon virulently critiques the institutions of the Church, he is dependent upon the wealth of theological sources for his imagery as well as the position of theism, which alone gives credence to his practice.

Journal Article.  8061 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literature ; Religion and Art, Literature, and Music

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