A work by the Irish painter Francis Bacon has been sold at auction in Christies in London for nearly £26.34m.

It's thought to be the highest price ever paid for a painting by Francis Bacon sold in Europe and the second highest price worldwide.

The sale was the first time that the painting, 'Triptych 1974-1977', had appeared at auction.

It had been held in a private collection and the identity of the new owner has not been disclosed.

The work is one of several pictures Bacon painted in response to the suicide of his lover, George Dyer, in 1971.

It contains brooding images of dark umbrellas and a writhing figure on a beach.

Dyer killed himself on the eve of a seminal Bacon show in Paris, in the hotel room they shared.

Many of Bacon's later works were preoccupied with Dyer's death.

The piece sold last night, the fourth and last in his Black Triptychs series, differs from predecessors in that it expresses a sense of hope. None of the others have appeared on the open market and only one is in private hands.