Documentary on One

Oiled: A Portrait of Henrietta

Henrietta Moraes was known as the Queen of Soho - she was muse to artists including Francis Bacon who's portrait of her sold for 25 million euros- but she lived a tragic and decadent life.

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4.3/5 (75 ratings)

Documentary maker: Joe Kearney

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Documentary maker: Nicoline Greer

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Oiled: A Portrait of Henrietta

Early last year the art world held its breath when a Francis Bacon painting fetched 25 million euros at auction in London.

The painting, entitled "A Portrait of Henrietta Moraes" depicts a naked woman lying on an unmade bed. It is rendered as a mixture of grotesque violence alongside highly charged sexuality.

In "The Documentary on One, Oiled: A Portrait of Henrietta" Joe Kearney seeks to discover who is artist’s muse Henrietta and how did she come to spend so much time in Ireland?

For a period starting in the mid-50s, Henrietta Moraes (Hen to her friends) was the uncrowned Queen of Soho. She lived her life on the margins of the rich, the famous and the dangerous. Dazzled by reflected glory, she drifted into chronic alcoholism, drug abuse and prison. The muse of Francis Bacon and Lucien Freud ended her life in abject poverty, reliant upon the charity of others.

During her troubled lifetime she frequently sought sanctuary in Ireland. Here she found refuge amongst the crumbling Georgian mansions of the Irish midlands and sufficient peace to write her life story.

This documentary features Marianne Faithfull – for whom Henrietta worked as tour manager and Desmond Guinness who was one of her close friends. It also includes a rare interview with Henrietta’s son Josh who had a troubled relationship with his mother.

Acquainted with rock stars, aristocracy and artists, Henrietta lived her life to the full, never fearful of the future or troubled by the past. Alcoholism was a dominant force in her life, but her beauty and presence lasted a lifetime in spite her many excesses. She left a lasting impression upon those who came under her spell.

Narrated by Ruth McCabe.

The voice of Henrietta was read by Liz Lloyd.

Produced by Joe Kearney.

Production supervision by Nicoline Greer.

Sound supervision by Richard McCullough and Mark McGrath.

With thanks to art historian Tony Suttle.

First broadcast Saturday 26th January 2013.


'Documentary on One is the home of Irish radio documentaries and the largest library of documentary podcasts available anywhere in the world. We tell stories in sound, mostly Irish ones, and each documentary tells its own story'

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