A Night with Monroe

Updated: Feb 12


Christie’s offered on auction the 1959 Hasselblad 500C camera (no. 36980) used by celebrated Hollywood photographer Douglas Kirkland (b. 1934) for his legendary 1961 Look Magazine photoshoot of Marilyn Monroe.






The camera was offered together with two magazine backs, two Carl Zeiss lenses, and two 40x60 in. limited-edition archival prints of Monroe taken during the shoot.


The two photographs, Marilyn (Overhead) and Marilyn (Hugging Pillow), were taken at the pinnacle of Monroe’s fame and less than one year before her tragic death; they remain among the last professional images taken of the star.


This seven-piece lot was offered at The Exceptional Sale on October 29, 2019, and is estimated at $200,000 and $300,000 USD.


This fabled photo session with Monroe, which took place in Beverly Hills on a Friday evening in November 1961, is remembered with an almost mythical sensibility. It still lives on as one of the most quintessentially “Old Hollywood” moments of all time.


With little other than a bedsheet, a bottle of champagne and Frank Sinatra’s voice crooning from a record player, the young Kirkland was able to capture on film the ethereal and transcendent beauty of a true icon with unmatched skill and intensity.


The images taken of Monroe that evening exist as relics to the film industry’s heyday, an era defined by sensuality and glamour.


The 1959 500C was a pivotal product for Hasselblad. The model launched initially in 1957 and rocketed the Swedish camera company’s popularity.


Kirkland was an early adopter of this model, who at the young age of 27 had just joined Look Magazine 18 months prior and was at the precipice of what was soon to become a long and illustrious career in photojournalism.

Becky MacGuire, Sale Director, The Exceptional Sale comments, “We are thrilled to be offering buyers the chance to own a piece of that magical Hollywood moment when Marilyn owned the silver screen.


No one connected with the tragic star better than the young photojournalist Douglas Kirkland, who became the photographer of choice for film stars and top movie producers well into the 21st century.”



Kirkland went on to photograph a multitude of stars and cultural icons, including Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, Catherine Deneuve, Diana Ross, Billy Idol, Coco Chanel, and Andy Warhol.


His work resides in permanent collections of some of the most prominent and recognized art institutions around the world, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Smithsonian, the National Portrait Gallery of Australia, the Houston Center for Photography, the Eastman House in Rochester and the Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles.


Photo courtesy : Christie’s



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