Nude Bruni image sells for £45,500

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A nude photo of the new high-profile wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy smashed its auction estimate as it sold for more than £45,000 in New York, Christie's said.

The image of glamorous first lady Carla Bruni was taken by photographer Michel Comte 15 years ago and shows a younger, nude Ms Bruni facing the camera with her hands crossed at her waist.

A buyer for a Chinese art collector yesterday bought the black-and-white 1993 photo for $91,000 (£45,500), more than 22 times its estimate of $3,000 to $4,000 (£1,500 to £2,000), the auction house said.

The Italian supermodel turned singer was described as "a very popular visitor to Britain" by Prime Minister Gordon Brown following a two-day state visit that aimed to strengthen the British ties with France last month.

Ms Bruni stole many of the headlines during the visit and Mr Brown was pictured planting a kiss on her cheek.

She is expected to release her latest album, No Promises, in May.

The photograph, which measures 32.5cm by 22.5cm, was sold by German-born collector Gert Elfering and was acquired from the artist directly.