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Photo of nude Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate heading for auction

November 24, 2009 |  5:00 pm

Polanski Proving once again that nothing sells like a controversy, Christie's said today that a print of a photo showing a nude Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate is heading for the auction block. The portrait was taken in 1969 in London by art-fashion photographer David Bailey.

The oversize print depicts Polanski and his then-wife Tate from the waist up locked in a nude embrace. (Tate's right breast is visible in the shot.) According to Christie's, the print was created in 1988 for a traveling exhibition called "The Art of Photography: 150 years, 1839-1989," which was shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Australian National Gallery, Canberra.

Milena Sales, a spokesperson for Christie's, told The Times that the print belongs to a private collection in London but she declined to reveal the name of the owner. She said that a similar print sold in London in 2006 for a little more than $17,000.

The current print, which will go on sale in New York Dec. 7, is expected to sell for $8,000 to $12,000, according to Christie's. The public can view the print, along with the other items in the auction, from Dec. 3 to 6. News of the print's sale was reported earlier this afternoon by Reuters.

Tate was murdered in L.A. by members of Charles Manson's clan not long after the photograph was taken.

Polanski, whose films include "Rosemary's Baby," "Chinatown" and "The Pianist," is being held in a Swiss prison on charges relating to a 32-year-old case in which he admitted to having sex with a minor. In 1978, Polanski fled the U.S. rather than face sentencing in a L.A. court. He has lived as a fugitive in France ever since.

In late September, the director was arrested in Switzerland en route to a film festival. A hearing is set for December in L.A. during which Polanski's lawyers are expected to argue for the dismissal of the case.

When asked if the timing of the auction is significant, the Christie's spokesperson said "it is and it isn't. Christie's plans its sales three months in advance."

-- David Ng

Photo: a detail of a print of a photo by David Bailey showing Polanski and Tate. Credit: Christie's

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