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Nude photo of 20-year-old Madonna on auction block

Friday, January 16, 2009

NEW YORK —  A nude photo of Madonna, taken before erotic songs and risque costumes catapulted her to superstardom, is expected to sell for at least $10,000, Christie's auction house says.

Madonna, then known as Madonna Louise Ciccone, may have earned as little as $25 for the 1979 modeling session.

The raw, full frontal black-and-white image, taken by Lee Friedlander, appeared in Playboy in 1985 and is to be auctioned Feb. 12. Madonna was a 20-year-old dancer trying to make ends meet when she answered Friedlander's newspaper ad seeking a nude model, said Matthieu Humery, head of Christie's photography department.

Humery said this week that six photos from the shoot were sold to Playboy and the one up for auction is "maybe the most explicit one."

"For Friedlander it is a very typical way of taking pictures of a woman," he said. "He likes very natural women. It reflects Friedlander's aesthetic.

"There's not a hint of glamorizing," he added. "That's what makes it powerful."

He said he knows of no other prints of the black-and-white photo.

Friedlander has said of the photo session that Madonna "seemed very confident, a street-wise girl. She told me she was putting a band together but half the kids that age are doing that. She was a good professional model."

The other five pictures from the Playboy spread were sold together in 2003 for $7,170.

Another, later photo of Madonna, by Helmut Newton, is in the auction and is also expected to fetch $10,000 to $15,000. In that shot, also sold to Playboy, Madonna is wearing lingerie, curly blond hair and a seductive expression. A man kneels beside her.

The Madonna photos are among 150 images by some of the biggest names in photography that are being sold from the collection of Leon and Michaela Constantiner.

Last month, more than 350 photographs from the New York couple's collection were auctioned. One highlight was a collection of photographs of Marilyn Monroe that were taken by Bert Stern for Vogue magazine the year Monroe died. They sold for $146,500.

Christie's say the record auction price for a nude photo is the $1.6 million paid last year for Edward Weston's 1925 "Nude."


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