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Court orders French museum to return Francis Bacon painting

media Study for a Self Portrait by Francis Bacon, 1985-86 Francis Bacon

A court has ordered a French museum to return a Francis Bacon painting to the painter’s heirs. On Thursday an appeals court in Aix-en-Provence ordered the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles to return “Homage to Van Gogh” to the heirs of John Edwards, Bacon’s friend and main heir who died in 2003.

The Irish-born painter’s picture was a tribute to an earlier self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh and had been loaned to the museum in southern France in 1991, just before Bacon’s death.

However it was never returned and this latest ruling overturns an earlier decision which stated that the painting could stay with the museum, which claimed Bacon meant to give it as a work to keep.

“The painting was not given as a gift, nor was there any promise of a gift,” the court said in its ruling.

“We will now bury the hatched,” said the foundation’s director Mary Gruber. She said she was in a state of “shock”, and while the foundation’s lawyer said a further appeal was possible, it would, for the moment, give the painting back.

Bacon, who died in 1992, cited Vincent Van Gogh as one of his great influences, and a “Homage to Van Gogh” was a version of the Expressionist’s “The Painter on the Road to Tarascon” which was originally painted near Arles in 1888.

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