Nude pic of French first lady Carla Bruni sold for US$91,000

NEW YORK, April 10, 2008 (AFP) – A photograph of a nude Carla Bruni, the ex-model now married to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, was sold Thursday to a Chinese collector for 91,000 dollars at Christie’s — more than 20 times its predicted price.

The gelatin silver print, taken by photographer Michel Comte in 1993, depicts a young Bruni in a standing pose, apparently in reference to the paintings of French neo-impressionist artist Georges Seurat depicting models.

It was standing room only in the auction hall as more than 200 photographs were put up for sale, including one of screen siren Brigitte Bardot by legendary American photographer Richard Avedon which fetched 181,000 dollars.

The Bruni-Sarkozy photograph, labeled “lot 64,” was hotly contested by bidders over the phone and via Internet, as well as in the hall.

The winner, a man of Asian descent, was present in the auction hall and was immediately protected from journalists by house staff.

“He was bidding on behalf of a Chinese collector,” Christie’s spokesman Rik Pike told reporters.

Christie’s had at first estimated the Bruni portrait to go under the hammer for about 4,000 dollars,