As soon as this week’s cover of Paris Match magazine featuring Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni was released, the questions began: how was the diminutive former French president seemingly taller than his towering wife?
The front-page photoshoot might have sparked speculation the 64-year-old rightwinger was thinking of a political comeback, coming hot on the heels of his new book called Passions, which has become a summer bestseller.
But social media users mostly wanted to know how Bruni, at 5ft 9in (1.75 metres), appeared to be standing up while nuzzling the neck of her husband, who is about four inches shorter.
The image sparked a series of cruel Photoshopped pictures involving step-ladders and platform shoes before Paris Match put out a statement to deny suggestions it had doctored the image.
“Some people were surprised to see Nicolas Sarkozy taller than his wife, Carla Bruni,” the magazine said, adding that the photograph in question had been taken in June on some steps outside the couple’s home. “In the image chosen for the cover, Nicolas Sarkozy was on the higher step than his wife,.”
Paris Match brought unwelcome attention to Sarkozy’s height in 2015 with another front-page shot that appeared to show him taller than his wife on a beach in Corsica.
The magazine is often used by French politicians for publicity, knowing a flattering photoshoot and intimate interview can put them back in the public eye and spark interest.
Sarkozy has quit politics on two occasions after election defeats, most recently in 2016 when his efforts to become the presidential candidate for his rightwing Les Républicaines party failed.
He is still embroiled in multiple corruption investigations relating to his five years at the Élysée Palace from 2007-2012 focused on campaign financing and allegations he accepted money from the Gaddafi regime in Libya . Sarkozy denies all of the charges.
In his book Passions, Sarkozy recalls his early years in politics and also touches on his private life, relating how his first wife, Cecilia, told him she wanted a divorce on the eve of a crucial television debate during the 2007 presidential race.
The book is the latest in a long line of his publishing successes, which include Together, France for Life and Everything for France.