By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK - A nude photo of film director Roman Polanski, who is now being held in a Swiss prison, and his wife Sharon Tate taken shortly before she was brutally murdered, will be sold at an upcoming auction where it could fetch more than $10,000, organizers said.
The large-scale gelatin silver print, from an image taken by David Bailey in 1969 just months before actress Tate and four others were brutally slain by followers of Charles Manson, was printed in 1988 when it was earmarked for a traveling photography exhibition.
"It's an important image," said Laura Paterson, a vice president at Christie's auction house and a specialist in their photography department.
"It certainly is provocative because of who the characters are. But it's also a touching naked shot of a happy couple," she added. "And Bailey does capture the anything goes flavor of that period."
The portrait depicts the couple from the waist up. Tate poses in profile to the camera with her right arm over Polanski's shoulder, and Polanski's arms are wrapped around his wife's torso. Both are gazing into the lens.
The roughly 33-inch by 33-inch photograph was published in Bailey's book, "Goodbye Baby & Amen: A Saraband for the Sixties."
One of nearly 200 photos in the December 7 auction, its price estimate ranges from $8,000 to $12,000, but a sale figure could go higher given Polanski's renewed notoriety since his September arrest in Switzerland, stemming from a long-ago conviction in California for having sex with a minor.
Polanski, 76, is being held in a Swiss prison pending a decision on a U.S. extradition request. He fled the United States in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.
He never returned to Los Angeles, where Tate, pregnant with their child, was murdered.
The director of hit films such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown" won the best director Oscar for "The Pianist" in 2002.
Bailey, 71, is an English photographer widely known for his fashion and rock 'n' roll photography who is said to have inspired the character played by David Hemmings in the 1966 film "Blowup," set amid the swinging London fashion scene which Bailey's work epitomized.
His photo of Polanski and Tate will be included in the sale's exhibition at Christie's from December 3 through 6.