A FRANCIS BACON painting, expected to sell for more than €20 million when it goes under the hammer at Christie’s next month, enjoys a unique connection with Roundwood House. The titular subject of the ‘Portrait of Henrietta Moraes’ lived at Roundwood in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.
Henrietta Moraes was a well known British model whom Bacon painted on a number of occasions. She was the “caretaker” of Roundwood House in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when the property was owned by the Irish Georgian Society.
Ms Moraes was a colourful bohemian character in London during the 1960s who mixed with artists and Soho society. However, she died poverty stricken in a council flat in Chelsea in 1999, at the age of 63.
Her life was nothing short of eventful, and included three dissolved marriages, a spell as a cat burglar which landed her in Holloway Prison, a stint as secretary to singer Marianne Faithfull, a long break in Ireland, and nude modelling for artists.
An obituary in the Guardian newspaper described her as “foul mouthed, amoral, a thief, a violent drunkard and a drug addict” but also as a “witty, wonderfully warm and lovable” person who had “enjoyed life in Ireland, where there were young upper class addicts in ramshackle mansions.”
Among friends who joined her at Roundwood was the rock star Eric Burdon, founder of The Animals, who recorded an album ‘Darkness, Darkness’ at Roundwood in May 1978.
The ‘Portrait of Henrietta Moraes’ is being auctioned for the first time and has not been seen in public for 15 years. Christies’s have described it as “sexually charged” and Francis Bacon’s “most seductive female portrait.”
Christie’s said the estimate was upon request, but it is understood that the reserve is £18 million (€21.53m). The auction will be held this St Valentine’s Day.