Rachel Cooke at The Guardian:
A year before his death in 1992, Francis Bacon quietly slipped into the Prado in Madrid, discreetly followed by its deputy director, Manuela Mena. There, he spent 90 minutes alone with its collection of Velázquez (it was a Monday, and the museum was closed). What did Mena make of Bacon, who was then 81, and in the habit of using shoe polish to colour his hair? “I’ve never seen somebody so gentle,” she said. “He looked you straight in the eye. He wanted to see who you are. He had… this security in himself.” Bacon lingered longest, she recalled, in front of Mars Resting (1640), in which Velázquez depicts the Roman god of war with his face in shadow – a decision that whispers a loss of masculine power, even as the muscles on his torso seem to ripple like damask in a breeze – and we can assume that he was grateful for the chance to have done so: afterwards, he sent Mena the most beautiful flowers she had ever received.