Divided Bacon Triptych Reunited by Roman Collector

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud ($85m)

Kelly Crow traces the story of the Christie’s Bacon triptych of Lucian Freud that was once scattered and is now reunited. Previous reports had a consortium re-assembling the triptych for investment purposes. It is unclear from Crow’s report whether the present consignor is that supposed consortium, a flipper looking to maximize the market moment or the collector with buyer’s remorse that Gorvy describes. You can decide which story you like best:

In 1970, the triptych was first shown at Turin’s Galleria Galatea—and promptly separated and sold off panel by panel to collectors from Rome, Paris and Japan, to Bacon’s frustration because he had wanted the triptych kept together. For the next decade, one panel would change hands, then another.

But then sometime during the late 1980s, the Roman owner of one of the panels decided to try and reunite the three. That collector was Francesco De Simone Niquesa, a lawyer who advised Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida on their film contracts during the 1960s and later amassed a fortune selling bottled mineral water. Mr. De Simone, who is in his early 90s, maintains a low profile today, but collectors in Rome say he has one of the country’s best collections of modern art—and he is particularly known for admiring Bacon.

Christie’s said it wouldn’t confirm that Mr. De Simone once owned the Bacon triptych. Mr. Gorvy said he could confirm that an Italian collector spent 15 years persuading the owners of the remaining two panels to sell their Bacons so he could bring the triptych back together. He added that the Italian owner then lived with the trio for years before reselling “Three Studies” to another collector for an undisclosed sum. That collector is based in the U.S., according to people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for Mr. De Simone confirmed Thursday afternoon that he had reassembled the triptych and had sold it to the current owner, who remains anonymous.

Mr. Gorvy said the current owner brought it home last year and “realized it didn’t fit into his broader collection,” which is why it is being offered for sale now.

Bringing Home the Bacon (Wall Street Journal)