Œdipus & the Sphinx after Ingres, 1983
Oedipus, a character from Greek mythology, is facing the Sphinx, a monster, with the face, head, and shoulders of a woman, a lion's body, and bird's wings.
When the monster asked him:
"What is it that has a voice and walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?"
Oedipus answered that it was man who, as a child crawls on all fours, as an adult walks on two legs, and in old age uses a stick as a third leg.
The theme of the story is the triumph of intelligence and one of man confronting his destiny since Oedipus's exploit will lead to him becoming king of Thebes and marrying his mother Jocasta, as the oracle had predicted when he was born.
In 1808, this story was the subject of a work by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, who was then the resident artist at the Villa Medici, in Rome.
In 1983, Francis Bacon, whose work has been inspired by the works of classical artists, such as Velázquez, reinterpreted the composition.
‘Oedipus no longer occupies the centre of the painting, as in Ingres; instead, he is pushed to the right-hand side and left only partially visible in an otherwise empty centre: a thigh and a foot, abundantly wrapped in bandages and displaying deep and bloody wounds.
While, in Ingres, Oedipus dominates, occupying the centre, safely manipulating the sphinx, Bacon transforms the winner into a loser’, wrote the critic David Sylvester (Interviews with Bacon).
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FRANCIS BACON 1909-1992 Dublin 1909-1992 Madrid (Irish / British) Title: Œdipus & the Sphinx after Ingres, 1983 Technique: Original Hand Signed and Numbered Lithograph in colours on Arches wove paper. Paper size: 127 x 90 cm. / 50 x 35.4 in. Image size: 117 x 86 cm. / 46.1 x 33.9 in. Additional Information: This lithograph is hand signed in pencil by the artist "Francis Bacon" in the lower right margin. It is also inscribed in pencil "HC" (Hors Commerce) in the lower left margin. The work was printed in a limited edition of 150 impressions by Arts Litho, France and published by Éditions de la Différence, Paris in 1983 The paper bears the printer's dry stamp at the lower margin. Literature: 1. Tacou, A. Francis Bacon,Estampes. Editions Bervillé. Reference: Tacou 17 2. Sabatier, B. (2012) Francis Bacon: Oeuvre Graphique - Graphic Work. Catalogue Raisonné. Paris: JSC Modern Art Gallery. Reference: Sabatier 18