Too risqué for Iran, Bacon's 'lost' painting goes on show

 

For the past quarter of a century, a major painting by Francis Bacon has languished in a storeroom in Iran, its eroticism deemed too inflammatory for public display.

But now British art lovers are to get the chance to see the work which has been kept from Iranians. Tomorrow the extraordinary triptych Two figures lying on a bed goes on display after years of negotiations by the Tate.

The work is owned by the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, an institution originally founded by the wife of the last Shah of Iran and the holder of an extraordinary collection of Western paintings.

But it was one of dozens of depictions of nudes consigned to storage after the fundamentalists seized power in the 1979 revolution.

Like most younger Western academics, Stephen Deuchar, the director of Tate Britain, knew the work only through reproduction. So when he was on holiday in Iran in 2001, he naturally asked to take a look.

Even under the harsh fluorescent lighting of the underground store, it was striking. He asked whether he could borrow it. And the Iranian Ministry of Culture finally agreed.

Surveying the work on the walls of Tate Britain yesterday where it is the highlight of a new temporary Bacon display, he said that it was even more striking seen properly.

"When you saw it under the fluorescent lighting in the store, you could tell it was a strong work, but it looks very vibrant here. The lilac background is very surprising," he said.

Toby Treves, who has curated the display, said the work, which was painted in 1968 not long before it was sold to the Shah's wife, clearly showed a homoerotic strand of Bacon's work that was largely ignored.

"At the beginning of his fame after the war, there was a concentration on the existential aspect of the work, but not much discussion of the quite frank eroticism in many of the paintings," he said. "This triptych is probably the most overtly erotic of the paintings in this room."

The work shows figures in two flanking panels who appear to spy on two naked men lying on a bed in the central panel, with a splatter of white paint flung across them. "It is deeply ambiguous and deliberately so," Mr Treves said.

The Iranian loan is hung alongside another celebrated triptych, his Three Studies for Figures at the Base of the Crucifixion, dating from 1944, and a work apparently based on photographs of the former cricketer David Gower. Bacon triptychs now command as much as £6m at auction.

The generosity of the Iranian museum and its director, Dr Ali Reza Sami Azar, was returned earlier this year when the Tate lent a Bill Woodrow to an exhibition of British sculpture organised by the British Council.

And extraordinarily, it now looks as if the Bacon may even be seen in Tehran itself. Dr Sami Azar is hoping to include Two figures lying on a bed in an exhibition provisionally entitled Figurative Tendencies in Western Art when it is returned to Iran in the autumn.

News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Sport
world cup 2014A history of the third-place play-offs
News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer Tommy was last surviving member of seminal band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Life and Style
Several male celebrities have confessed to being on a diet, including, from left to right, Hugh Grant, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Reynolds
...and the weight loss industry is rubbing its hands in glee
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
arts + entsReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice