One of Peter de Francia's largest paintings, The Execution of Beloyannis, is the first of his three major political paintings of the post-war period, predating The Bombing of Sakiet (currently on show at Tate Britain, Room 4) and The African Prison (Sheffield City Art Galleries).
Never previously exhibited, The Execution of Beloyannis has remained with the artist until now, although a pencil study for the work was shown by the Arts Council in the travelling exhibition, curated by John Berger, Looking Forward, during 1953.
The subject depicted is an infamous event in post-civil-war Greek history.
On 30th March 1952, Nikos Beloyannis was executed before dawn along with seven other men, on the dubious charge of espionage involving high treason. International protests over Beloyannis's sentence were led by Jean-Paul Sartre and Picasso, as claims were made that he was being executed simply for being a communist, to remove a popular and charismatic potential leader. A picture of Beloyannis holding a red carnation that had been handed to him was reproduced around the world in an attempt to have his sentence revoked and he became known as the 'man with the red carnation'.
Peter de Francia's response to this event is both horrifically brutal and tragically beautiful, with two of the men clasping hands in their final moments and the carnation resting poignantly between Beloyannis's open fingers.
Oil on board
124.46 x 307.34 cms (48.91 x 120.78 ins)
Stephen Farthing, 1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die, London, 2008, illustrated p.760.