Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe

Vintage Photo Inscribed - 1950

This is an extremely rare and stunning original early portrait of a demure Marilyn Monroe sitting in the elegant strapless satin brocade gown she wore in All About Eve—the epitome of beauty, grace, and glamour—taken by photographer Laszlo Willinger in 1950 when she was just 24. The florid inscription and signature, likely in the hand of Marilyn’s secretary, is in bright red ink that reads, “Marguerite, Gratefully, Marilyn Monroe.” Though its path in history isn’t clear, “Marguerite” is most likely Marguerite Chapman, who played the secretary in Marilyn’s memorable film The Seven Year Itch. That film premiered on June 1, 1955, Marilyn’s 29th birthday.

Monroe’s photos typically had inscriptions such as “Best of luck,” “Hugs and kisses,” “Thinking of you” and similar, more generalized expressions—but “Gratefully” implies a closer relationship, which is what led us to Marguerite Chapman. After her own long film career Ms. Chapman passed away in 1999, but her family has confirmed with us that she did in fact once own a signed image of Marilyn Monroe, though she had to sell much of her memorabilia over the years to provide for herself—establishing a logical and highly relevant provenance with Marilyn Monroe’s film career.

Featured in Marie Clayton’s wonderful book Marilyn Monroe: Unseen Archives, this rarely seen photograph was taken when Marilyn was still known as “Norma Jeane Mortenson,” just one of hundreds of aspiring young starlets seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood’s Golden Era. One can sense in this portrait the vulnerability and innocence that marked Marilyn’s film career—an image that shaped itself over the next decade to become a dominant box office draw—establishing Marilyn Monroe as one of the most memorable women of the 20th century and beyond.

This beautiful original photograph comes from the collection of the late Leon Becker, once among the world’s foremost historical autograph dealers whose renowned gallery, Memorabilia, Ltd., was located in Rancho La Costa, California. Marilyn’s image is tastefully displayed in the beautiful archival mounting Leon’s talented design staff created in the 1980s: the glossy 8×10 photo is bordered with an acid-free black mat beneath a rich pink brocade silk lining, which itself is bordered again by a thin black moire and finished with a top mat wrapped in a golden cream moire fabric, encased in a brushed silver-finished 21×17 wooden frame. A brushed silver plaque beneath the portrait reads: “Marilyn Monroe 1926-1962.”