Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe
Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (nr 2).jpg
Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe, 1968. Oil on canvas, 197 x 147 cm. Private collection
ArtistFrancis Bacon
Year1968 (1968)

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe is a 1968 oil on canvas panel painting by the Irish born, English artist Francis Bacon. It is the second of two similarly titled paintings based on nude photographs of his close friend Henrietta Moraes, who is shown in a reclining position on a bed, themselves part of a wider series of collapsed figures on beds that began with the 1963 triptych Lying Figure.[1] This later version is widely considered the more successful of the two panels.[2]

Moraes and Bacon were drinking friends, she was a favourite model and he depicted her over a dozen times in a variety of forms, including single panel portraits, triptych portraits, and as part of larger scale figurations such as this panel. They knew each other from Soho's Colony Club, where they often met with John Deakin, another close friend, and a photographer whom Bacon commission to take the photographs on which the painting is based.[3]

Moraes was a noted beauty and an artists model in 1960s London, and a muse to Bacon, Lucian Freud and later to Maggi Hambling. Bacon was decidedly gay and did not often paint or show much interest in female nudes, although Deakin's original photographs are quite erotic, verging on voyeuristic and seedy.[4] A few of Bacon's other incorporated influences, including Henry Fuseli's 1871 The Nightmare, which emphasis female sexuality and appeal, especially according to Sothebys, in the long hair and "thrown back arm, so eloquent of physical abandon".[2] Bacon's painting contains traces of these influences, but is more focused on inner turmoil and projection of his bleak, nihilistic, outlook. This is apparent in the contorted and unflattering manner in which he depicts his model, and most especially in the manner she is seemingly pinned to the bed by the hypodermic syringe.[5]

Bacon was avowedly against melodrama and loaded meanings in his paintings, and of for years seemed defensive in including such a direct utensil as syringe. He instead saw the device as akin to the nails in a depiction of the crucifixion of Jesus, a particular obsession of his, and said "I've used the figures lying on beds with a hypodermic syringe as a form of nailing the image more strongly to reality or appearance. I don't put the syringe because of the drug that's being injected but because it's less stupid than putting a nail through the arm, which would be even more melodramatic."[6] A bitter irony is that Moraes fell victim to heroin addiction from the 1970s.[2]

The painting is similar in tone, form and theme to his 1967 Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot's Poem "Sweeney Agonistes", in which the central figure, also reclining, is reduced to a slab of flesh. [7]


  1. ^ Dawson, 97
  2. ^ a b c "Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe". Sothebys, 14 November 2014. Retrieved 12 June 2017
  3. ^ Russell, 100
  4. ^ Farr, 144
  5. ^ Sylvester, 31
  6. ^ Dawson, 98
  7. ^ van Alphen, 68


  • Dawson, Barbara; Sylvester, David. Francis Bacon in Dublin. London: Thames & Hunson, 2000.ISBN 978-0-500-28254-0
  • Farr, Dennis; Peppiatt, Michael; Yard, Sally. Francis Bacon: A Retrospective. New York: Harry N Abrams, 1999.ISBN 0-8109-2925-2
  • Peppiatt, Michael. Anatomy of an Enigma. London: Westview Press, 1996.ISBN 0-8133-3520-5
  • Russell, John. Francis Bacon. New York: Norton, 1971.ISBN 0-500-20169-2
  • Sylvester, David. Looking back at Francis Bacon. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000.ISBN 0-500-01994-0
  • van Alphen, Ernst. Francis Bacon and the Loss of Self. London: Reaktion Books, 1992.ISBN 0-948462-33-7

Media files used on this page

Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe (nr 2).jpg

Francis Bacon

, Licence: Fair use

Version No. 2 of Lying Figure with Hypodermic Syringe