Realised in 1961 for the series Study for a Pope I-VI, the painting forms part of the research Bacon had initiated many years earlier, aimed at reworking Velázquez’ 1650 work Portrait of Innocent X (Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome), which the artist considered to be “one of the greatest paintings in the world”. Bacon studied the seventeenth-century masterpiece solely through photograph reproductions and he modified it several times, reinventing the work in ever new ways. At times he focused on the face, which he transformed into a screaming mask, whereas on other occasions he preferred to conserve a vision of the work as a whole and limited the variations to gesture or posture. Study for Velazquez Pope II, donated to the Vatican Museums by Gianni Agnelli, is the most composed of the series. Bacon strayed away from the original in its setting, eliminating any suggestion of colour in favour of a completely black background; however, the figure of the Pontiff, seated on a throne without any form of ornament, retains the austere pose and direct gaze of Velázquez’ Innocent X.