The appearance of a Modernist carpet at a sale in Germany next month writes a further chapter in the tale of two rugs, signed ‘Francis Bacon’, that have been withdrawn from sale in the UK twice in three years.
Although unsigned, the carpet in
Germany - rug specialists have termed it 'The Third Man' - is the
sibling of the enigmatic pair of rugs that first emerged in 2008
when consigned to Netherhampton Saleroom, near Salisbury by a
Portobello Road dealer.
Francis Bacon's early career as an
interior decorator and furniture designer is documented but, partly
because the artist later sought to destroy the evidence (he
described his efforts as poor imitations of the generic Cubist
style), only a handful of objects have survived.
Correspondence with the Francis Bacon
Foundation in 2008 had raised the possibility that the so-called
'Netherhampton' pair, measuring 5ft 5in x 3ft (1.65m x 91cm) and
7ft 4in x 3ft (2.24m x 91cm), might be among Bacon's earliest works
(perhaps made c.1929 after he returned from Paris and
Both were signed in the weave with the
bold signatures that do appear on some of the half-dozen undisputed
However, as previously reported in ATG, they
have since been
twice withdrawn from sale: at Netherhampton Salerooms in March
2009 (when the estimate was £50,000-80,000) and again this
September at Newcastle auctioneers Anderson & Garland (when the
estimate of £180,000-220,000).
The third rug, which lacks a
signature, comes up for sale at carpet specialists Rippon Boswell's
sale in Wiesbaden on November 24. Consigned from a UK private
collection, it was fully considered in an article on Bacon textiles
penned by Berkshire dealer Clive Rogers and Jean Manuel de Noronha
and published in Hali magazine (number 162).
Structurally it is thought to be
identical to the Netherhampton pair that, in the yarns, knotting
technique, pile and handle, show significant differences to the few
Bacon rugs known to have been made at the Royal Wilton Carpet
factory or one of its rural outposts c.1929-1931*.
The article found them comparable to
the work of the Killybegs factory in Co. Donegal and demonstrated
that the original design was created c.1927 by the Brazilian-born
Art Deco textile artist Ivan da Silva Bruhns
"This third rug makes the point that
these three (and maybe more as yet undiscovered) are in marked
contrast to the unique and one-off Wilton rugs designed by Bacon,"
comments Clive Rogers.
Detlef Maltzahn, auctioneer and
specialist at Rippon Boswell, told ATG the rug is certainly of the
period, although much inferior to Wilton weaving. A theory he finds
plausible is that these relatively crude Irish rugs represent the
first moment in Bacon's career in soft furnishings, with the
unsigned rug perhaps an early prototype. The estimate is
* These include a 6ft 7in by 3ft 11in (2
x 1.20m) handwoven Modernist wool carpet c.1929, boldly
signed Francis Bacon in the weave, sold at Christie's Paris in
March 2011 for a premium-inclusive €109,000 as part of Les
Collections du Château de Gourdon. A documentary photograph of
around 1932 showed this rug, or at least one of identical design,
in the living room of Bacon's Carlyle Studios, Chelsea.