Mr Saatchi, a household name for discovering young British artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, has admitted the pictures, published in the Sunday People, look “horrific”, but denied “gripping” his wife’s throat.
He told the Evening Standard, where he is a columnist: “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasize my point.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff.”
“The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt.”
The 70-year-old said the couple “had made up by the time we were home,” and that he told his wife to leave the family home after “until the dust settles”.
“We had made up by the time we were home,” he said. “The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.”
Ms Lawson’s spokesman, Mark Hutchinson, declined to comment on the photographs.
The pictures appear to show Mr Saatchi with his hands on Ms Lawson’s neck as they dined on a terrace at Scott’s restaurant in London’s Mayfair. The chef, who made her name with her recipe book How To Eat, appears to be grimacing.
The Metropolitan police are looking into the photographs, but said no complaint had been made to them about the incident.
“Inquiries are in hand to establish the facts” in order to assess whether a formal investigation was necessary, Scotland Yard said.
In Britain a complaint from an alleged victim is not necessary to lay assault charges if there is enough evidence from other witnesses.
The couple have been married for 10 years and live with three children from previous marriages.