Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate nude photo sold

NEW YORK Tue Dec 8, 2009 6:39pm GMT

Director Roman Polanski reacts during a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Oberhausen September 29, 2008. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Director Roman Polanski reacts during a news conference to present his musical 'Tanz der Vampire' ('Dance of the Vampires') in Oberhausen September 29, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Ina Fassbender

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A nude photograph of film director Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, taken shortly before she was brutally murdered, sold for $11,250 (6,870 pounds) at an auction on Monday, with the director's recent arrest fuelling interest.

The large-scale gelatin silver print was from an image taken by English photographer David Bailey in 1969 just months before actress Tate and four others were slain by followers of Charles Manson. It was printed in 1988 for a travelling exhibition.

The roughly 33-inch by 33-inch portrait depicts the couple from the waist up, their arms on or around each other and gazing into the lens. It had been expected to raise between $8,000 and $12,000.

"Bailey knew Polanski very well, not least because Bailey had ambitions himself to be a filmmaker and indeed in 1966 he ended up making a 30 minute short which I think rarely gets seen," Philippe Garner of auctioneers Christie's told Reuters Television.

"This picture of Polanski with his bride is one which I think is very poignant obviously because it was taken earlier in 1969, in the summer of that year she was murdered, so it has a particular emotional resonance which was certainly not intended when it was taken but it is a haunting picture for that reason."

Polanski, 76, is currently under house arrest at his chalet in the Swiss resort of Gstaad 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.

He was arrested at the request of the United States when he flew into Switzerland on September 26 to receive a lifetime achievement prize at a film festival.

Garner said the Polanski case had generated a certain level of interest in the print.

"I suspect that that news has made people think a little more about him and the story, and perhaps pay a little more attention to the picture than they might have done in normal circumstances," said Garner.

Polanski, the director of films such as "Rosemary's Baby" and "Chinatown," won the best director Oscar for "The Pianist" in 2002.

(Reporting by Reuters Television, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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