An image of Marilyn Monroe in a skin-tight, pearl-encrusted dress flanked by President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, then U.S. attorney general, used to be kept in an envelope tagged “Sensitive material.”
Part of a lot estimated at $4,000 to $6,000, the photograph will be sold at Bonhams in New York as part of the 12,000-image archive of Cecil Stoughton, the first official White House photographer.
Timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s election, the sale is expected to fetch as much as $250,000 on Dec. 9, 2010.
“She is wearing an outrageous dress,” said Matthew Haley, historical photograph specialist at Bonhams, in a telephone interview. “We believe it’s the only picture where the three of them appear together.”
The actress, who died less than three months after the picture was taken, was romantically linked to both Kennedy brothers.
Kennedy was the first president to create an official position for a White House photographer.
Some images show Kennedy “playing golf, swimming, sailing, smoking cigars,” said Haley. “The next image would be of him addressing the Senate or the United Nations.”
The black-and-white Monroe photograph was taken on May 19, 1962, the day she sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to Kennedy at the packed Madison Square Garden in New York.
Another print shows Kennedy and his children John Jr. and Caroline playing in the Oval Office. The black-and-white image bears an inscription: “For Captain Stoughton -- who captured beautifully a happy moment at the White House / John F. Kennedy.” The lot has an estimated range of $7,000 to $9,000.
In other pictures, the children are “making faces, playing or sitting at a conference table where you normally expect to see statesmen and ambassadors,” said Haley.
Stoughton was traveling in the motorcade on the day Kennedy was murdered in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. His documentation of the day includes the hospital where Kennedy was rushed.
Within hours of the assassination, Stoughton took a historic shot of Lyndon B. Johnson’s swearing-in ceremony aboard Air Force One, with Jackie Kennedy, looking shell-shocked, by his side. The print’s estimated to take in $5,000 to $7,000.
“He didn’t even wait until he got to Washington to be sworn in,” said Haley. “Cecil was the only photographer present for the occasion.”
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