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Bacon fortune is left to companion

THE ARTIST Francis Bacon has left more than pounds 10m to his companion John Edwards in his will, which was published yesterday.

Mr Edwards, 43, was the artist's companion for the last 15 years of his life.

The publication of the will coincided with the sale of Bacon's painting, Study of A Nude with Figure in a Mirror, at Sotheby's in London but it failed to reach its reserve price. The painting of a naked, reclining woman was expected to fetch more than pounds 1m but was bought for pounds 735,000, after the official sale had closed, by an anonymous foreign buyer.

The artist, who died last April, left his entire estate to John Edwards, whom he first met shortly after the death of a lover. The estate was valued at pounds 11,370,244 gross, pounds 10,923,900 net.

Despite his ability to command millions of pounds for individual paintings, Bacon was never touched by his wealth. His lifestyle was simple and unpretentious. Naked light bulbs dangled from the ceilings of his home in south London and he often told friends that he would be happy to return to the meagre income he enjoyed while working, in his youth, as a cook and servant. He turned down the offer of a knighthood.

Mr Edwards, one of six children, was the son of an East End publican and, until he met Bacon, worked in his father's pubs. Although Bacon was never reticent about his own homosexuality, the relationship that developed between the two men was platonic.

'Francis saw him as an adopted son,' one close friend said yesterday. 'He took him under his wing. He saw this rough diamond and always made him shave, dress properly; made a man out of him.'

Mr Edwards became his favourite model and appears in some of Bacon's most famous paintings. The artist bought him a house in Suffolk and a flat in London. 'He needed something in his life to cherish.'

Apart from each other, the two shared little in common and Mr Edwards never had more than a passing interest in art. 'He couldn't have told a Constable if it hit him in the face,' one acquaintance said.

But their friendship became one of the best-known, if most unlikely, in the art world. The two had originally met in Bacon's favourite watering hole, the Colony Club in Soho.

Mr Edwards has two brothers who are wealthy in their own right as antiques dealers, and art dealers, as well as artists, are confident that some of the Bacon inheritance will be used to the benefit of British art.