Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Thursday, 15 May 2008 10:06 UK

Bacon painting sets new record

Triptych had been in private hands since it was bought at auction in 1977

A Francis Bacon masterpiece has broken the artist's record at auction after selling for $86.3m (43m) in New York.

The sale of Triptych (1976) beat the previous record of 27m paid for Study For Innocent X.

The piece was sold at Sotheby's by a private collector from Europe who had owned the work since it was first exhibited in Paris in 1977.

Bacon used Ancient Greek legends as inspiration for the painting, which depicts disfigured human faces.

Alex Branczik, Sotheby's London deputy director for contemporary art, described the work as a "totemic triptych".

"It created an overnight sensation when it was first exhibited in Paris in 1976," he said.

"It showed Bacon working in a new way. It is a watershed painting which sees him moving beyond personal grief on to a more universal scale.

"Bacon was heavily influenced by Greek tragedies where personal stories relate to grander, universal issues.

"He saw the large format triptych as the greatest vehicle for artistic vision and this work sees Bacon achieve a new level of complexity."

Irish-born Bacon, one of the most prominent contemporary artists of his era, died from a heart attack in Madrid in 1992.

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