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Nude Bruni fails to arouse Swiss charity

The photograph was released during the Sarkozys' visit to Britain Keystone Archive

The Swiss doctor heading a Cambodian charity has rejected an offer to receive the proceeds from the sale of a nude photograph of France's first lady, Carla Bruni.

The Swiss news agency said Beat Richner took his decision concerning the photograph of the wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, “out of respect for the French and Cambodian governments”.

Richner, head of the Kantha Bopha Foundation which runs children’s hospitals in Cambodia, said he received the offer on Friday.

Richner said he would normally welcome donations from anyone including art collector Gert Elfering but did not want the 1993 nude photograph of Bruni connected in any way with his charity.

The Bruni picture, taken by Swiss photographer Michel Comte in 1993, is one of dozens of photographs from Elfering’s collection that will be auctioned by Christie’s on April 10.

“The mothers and their children feel as secure in the hospitals as if they were in a pagoda,” Richner said, adding that acceptance of money from the proceeds of a nude photograph would damage the foundation’s reputation.

The four hospitals treat more than one million children a year free of charge.

Even though he turned down the offer made by Elfering, Richner said his foundation was trying to raise money for an urgently needed hospital extension and to vaccinate children against Japanese meningitis.


The picture of Bruni made international headlines during the official visit to Britain by the Sarkozys last week.

The auction house estimates that the photograph will fetch between $3,000 and $4,000, well below the price pictures taken by more famous photographers, including Helmut Newton and Irving Penn, will go for. A Kate Moss portrait by Penn is expected to fetch up to $40,000.

William Ewing, director of Lausanne’s photography museum, the musée d’Elysée, told swissinfo he did not think the media hype surrounding the picture would have much impact on the price.

“It just happens to be an electrifying image because of the personality involved and because it touches affairs of state,” Ewing said. “This particular one doesn’t have anything extraordinary about it. It doesn’t have the strength of a Man Ray or Bill Brandt.”

Christie’s said the print by photographer Michel Comte was consigned for sale by Elfering when the former Italian model was not even engaged to Sarkozy.

Sarkozy married the singer and former model in February after divorcing his second wife, Cecilia, in October.

swissinfo with agencies

Carla Bruni stole the spotlight from her husband, French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, during his first state visit to Britain last week.

When the couple arrived in London on March 26, many newspapers ran a photograph of a nude Bruni taken during her modeling career in 1993 and due to be sold by Christie’s auction house in New York on April 10.

A day later, the media focussed on her elegant fashion sense with some commentators comparing her to the late Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR