When Christie’s decided to sell a nude photograph of Carla Bruni she was not engaged to the French President at the time, the auction house has told Amateur Photographer.

The now widely-published photograph of Nicolas Sarkozy’s wife (below) is due to be sold at Christie’s in New York next month when it will compete against images of Kate Moss and Brigitte Bardot.

Asked why Michel Comte’s portrait of Bruni was not among the original auction highlights shown to journalists at a special preview in London on 10 March, a Christie’s New York spokeswoman told us: The elegant image of Carla Bruni was selected for inclusion in the sale last year. When the work was consigned for sale as part of a much broader collection (The Gert Elfering Collection), the subject was not engaged to the French President.

When Christie’s first announced the upcoming 135-lot sale, auctioneers said they wanted to focus on some of the most important and iconic works in the collection.

Michel Comte photographed Bruni in 1993. The picture for sale is a silver gelatin print measuring 32.5×22.5cm, and is expected to fetch between $3,000 and $4,000.

Irving Penn’s 1996 photo of Kate Moss is expected to fetch up to $40,000, while Richard Avedon’s 1959 portrait of Brigitte Bardot is estimated at $80,000-120,000.

The images form part of a collection of fashion and beauty pictures built up over many years by Gert Elfering, himself a former photographer.

The stylised, idealised female figure occupies a privileged place in Elfering’s aesthetic, said Christie’s in a statement.

The auction, on 10 April, is expected to raise a total of $2-3m.

Picture credits: Christie’s Images Ltd 2008

Picture (below): Carla Bruni, 1993, by Michel Comte

Carla Bruni

Picture (below): Kate Moss, New York, 1996 by Irving Penn

Kate Moss by Irving Penn

Picture (below): Brigitte Bardot, Hair by Alexandre, January 1959 by Richard Avedon

Brigitte bardot by Richard Avedon</em> Picture credit: Christie's Images Ltd 2008