A portrait of Pope Innocent IX from 1650 by the Spanish painter Diego Velazquez (1599-1660) provided the starting point for Francis Bacon's painting 'Head VI' - one of a series of paintings of popes created by the artist. Although Bacon based his figure on Velazquez's brooding pontiff, the screaming mouth also recalls the anguished cry of the bespectacled nanny in Sergei Eisenstein's film 'Battleship Potemkin', 1925.
In the 1950s, Francis Bacon began a series of eight paintings based on Vincent van Gogh's 'The Painter on the Road to Tarascon', 1858. The latter was destroyed in a Second World War bombing raid and, according to the critic John Russell, Bacon probably never saw the work itself but only knew it from a reproduction. Likewise, it seems likely that Bacon never saw Velasquez's portrait of Pope Innocent X, which was the inspiration for his famous series of paintings of Popes.