Francis Bacon's 1969 masterpiece, Three Studies of Lucian Freud. (Photo:
Francis Bacon's 1969 masterpiece, Three Studies of Lucian Freud. (Photo:

Francis Bacon's painting, Three Studies of Lucian Freud has created world auction record for any work of art by fetching $142m (£89m) at Chrities's auction in New York, becoming the most valuable work of art ever sold at auction.

The 1969 masterpiece went under hammer in the auction house's Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale on 12 November. The painting done in Bacon's celebrated triptych format had never been auctioned before.

The iconic painting, which was finished almost 25 years after Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud met, celebrates the relationship between two of the 20th Century's greatest figurative painters.

In the life-size painting consisting of three panels, Bacon has animated Freud "restlessly repositioning himself, pivoting his raised foot, kneading his hands in his lap and rotating his head from canvas to canvas."

"The juxtaposition of radiant sunshine yellow contrasting with the brutal physicality and immediacy of the brushstrokes in this celebrated life-size triptych is what makes Bacon's art so remarkable," Francis Outred, head of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie's Europe, said.

He said that the painting was a "true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud's relationship, paying tribute to the creative and emotional kinship between the two artists."

The three panels of the painting were separated in the mid-1970s and were reunited in the 1980's. Three Studies of Lucian Freud is one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Lucian Freud.

The total sale from the auction fetched $691.6m ((£435m), the highest total in auction history. The auction attracted collectors from 42 countries with strong bidding from American, European and Asian collectors as well as from institutions.