There can never be enough Marilyn Monroe photographs. The internet is filled with them, and from different stages of her lightning, bombastic career.
Yet, pictures keep coming out, especially images taken of the icon at the beginning of her career. Photos before the world learned who Marilyn Monroe was — from the time she was merely Norma Jeane, the girl next door, a young and aspiring model.
In an upcoming auction on October 7th, offered by Santa Monica Auctions, one of the central lots is all about Norma Jeane. It’s lot 180A, which contains a precious cache, courtesy of photographer Richard C. Miller.
The two of them, Miller and Norma Jeane, met in early 1946. Marilyn was just 19-years-old at the time and had recently started a contract for the Blue Book modeling agency. They would collaborate on several different sessions that year.
“I had no idea when I was taking these pictures that she would become famous and that the pictures would become valuable. She was just a nice, sweet attractive girl with outrageous ambitions,” Miller would later comment according to the Daily Mail.
The auction lot features a portfolio with 12 prints picked from those 1946 photo sessions. Included is also a self-portrait of the working pair, with the signature “Dick and Norma Jeane” on it.
On the self-portrait with the photographer, the icon is sporting swimwear, with the wind blowing her hair on the one side and her smile simply radiant.
However, the most significant piece from this early Monroe collection seems to be a vintage print that came out in the production stage for a magazine cover where Norma Jeane was featured a year later, in the June 1947 issue of Personal Romances. The print preserved for the auction is a variation from the one that was ultimately used for the magazine issue.
On it, we can see young Norma Jeane dressed in her wedding gown, with a prayer book in her hands. The book was a personal copy of Miller’s wife and is among the items allotted for sale.
Consigned is also the original model release form personally signed by Norma Jeane Dougherty — consent to the photographer that he can freely use the photographs. The date inscribed on it is March 26, 1946.
At the time she used the name Norma Jeane Dougherty after having married her Van Nuys High School crash, James Dougherty, the first of her three husbands during her 36-year-long life. By the end of 1946, Norma Jeane and James were already divorcees.
The magazine cover image, done in an elaborate Carbro print technique and where we see Norma Jean in her wedding attire, was probably lost, reported LA Weekly.
Miller’s copy of it is “likely the only existing print from that session.” Miller was an expert in the coloring technique in question.
The entire lot can be reviewed at the auction site smauctions.com among over 200 other lots offered for sale. The scheduled date for the Santa Monica Auctions is Sunday, October 7th, beginning at 1 pm local time.
The Monroe auction lot is estimated to surpass the sum of $60,000 and possibly hit $80,000.
Previous auctions of Monroe’s memorabilia have proved record-breaking. In fact, she has the Guinness World Record for having sold the most expensive gown in history. — the sparkling Jean Louis dress, which Monroe wore during her well-remembered performance for President Kennedy’s birthday at the Democratic Party’s fundraiser in 1962, a few months before she died.
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In 2016, the hammer fell at $4,800,000 for the dress at Julien’s Auction in LA. According to Guinness World Records, the sum was $200,000 higher than a previous record, also held by Monroe, for her ivory rayon-acetate dress which she wore in 1955’s The Seven Year Itch romance comedy.