Francis Bacon's three-panelled painting "Three Studies of Lucian Freud" has become the most expensive work of art ever sold at auction when it was bought for $142.4m (€105.9m).

The 1969 triptych, never before offered at auction, carried a pre-sale estimate of about $85m (€63m) at the Christie's auction in New York.

The work by the Irish-born artist easily eclipsed the $119.9m (€89m) price of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," achieved in May last year at Sotheby's.

The painting sold after a fierce six-minute bidding war in the packed New York sales room and via telephone.

Christie's did not disclose the identity of the buyer.

Bacon's three-panel work depicts his friend and fellow artist Lucian Freud on a chair, with a view from each side and one face-on. Christie's called it "a true masterpiece that marks Bacon and Freud's relationship" and their"creative and emotional kinship."
"Three Studies of Lucian Freud" is also one of only two existing full-length triptychs of Freud, a grandson of the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

The three panels were separated for 15 years in the 1970s before being reunited.
The previous record for a Bacon work was $86.3m (€62.1m)