Rare Beatles and Elizabeth Taylor Photographs Up for Sale

May 18, 2012 Updated: September 25, 2019

Two rare photographs, one featuring The Beatles and another Elizabeth Taylor, are to go under the hammer.

The iconic shot of The Beatles is instantly recognisable as the cover of the Abbey Road album—but the band are walking right to left instead of left to right.

The photo is the second of six images taken by photographer Iain MacMillan in 1966, in a carefully planned but brief 15-minute shoot.

“That photo’s been called an icon of the 1960s, I suppose it is,” said Iain MacMillan in 1989. “I think the reason it became so popular is its simplicity. It’s a very simple, stylised shot. Also it’s a shot people can relate to. It’s a place where people can still walk.”

The image shows Paul McCartney wearing sandals instead of barefooted as in the final shot, being led by John Lennon across the now famous zebra crossing next to Abbey Road studios.

The photo is to be sold by Bloomsbury Auctions in London on Tuesday, May 22. It is expected to fetch around £9,000.

The Elizabeth Taylor shot should be of equal fascination for collectors when it comes up for sale.

The picture was taken by renowned photographer Cecil Beaton at an exclusive ball held by the Rothschilds in 1971.

Elizabeth Taylor poses with Richard Burton towards the end of their first marriage. She is wearing the jewellery that famously came up for auction in 2011.

Beaton wrote in his diary that he had disliked the famous couple.

“I have always loathed the Burtons for their vulgarity, commonness and crass bad taste, she combining the worst of US and English taste, he as butch and coarse as only a Welshman can be,” Beaton wrote.

“She wanted compliments. She got none. I felt I must be professional and continued, but not without loathing at this monster … Round her neck was a velvet ribbon with the biggest diamond in the world pinned on it … In comparison everyone else looked ladylike.”

Sarah Wheeler, photography specialist of Bloomsbury Auctions, said in an e-mail: “The fact that Cecil Beaton produced such a beautiful portrait despite his personal dislike for them, shows what a consummate professional he was.”

The photo is believed to have never gone on sale before, and was a gift from Beaton to the owner of Gerry’s Club in Soho, Brian Hammond. It hung at the club until Hammond’s death earlier this year. His family is now selling the image. It is expected to fetch up to £12,000.

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