As early as 1592, in a famous letter to his uncle, Lord Burghley, Bacon declared “all knowledge” to be his province and vowed his personal commitment to a plan for the full-scale rehabilitation and reorganization of learning. In effect, he dedicated himself to a long-term project of intellectual reform, and the balance of his career can be viewed as a continuing effort to make good on that pledge. In 1620, while he was still at the peak of his political success, he published the preliminary description and plan for an enormous work that would fully answer to his earlier declared ambitions. The work, dedicated to James, was to be called Magna Instauratio (that is, the “grand edifice” or Great Instauration ), and it would represent a kind of summa or culmination of all Bacon’s thought on subjects ranging from logic and epistemology to practical science (or what in Bacon’s day was called “natural philosophy,” the word science being then but a general synonym for “wisdom” or “learning”).
These same debates can be applied to another of Bacon’s pictures at the 1949 exhibition, Study for Portrait (see below). There are however two important differences compared with Head VI . The man is dressed in a jacket and tie as distinct from papal robes and, unusually for Bacon, there appear to be the shadows of two onlookers in the foreground. The figure is therefore a more formal one and doesn’t possess the isolation that one thinks of in connection with Bacon’s heads and portraits. Later observers noted that in this image, Bacon had prefigured the box-like structure that contained Adolf Eichmann in his trial of 1961.