Monroe, Ali and Dean: images to net £400,000

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The Independent Online

A nude Marilyn Monroe reclining on a bed in a photograph which may have been the last ever taken before her death is among 150 iconic images that are to be sold at auction.

A nude Marilyn Monroe reclining on a bed in a photograph which may have been the last ever taken before her death is among 150 iconic images that are to be sold at auction.

Leif-Erik Nygards' portrait of the screen siren, taken on 27 June 1962, less than two months before her drug overdose on 5 August, became famous for being her "last sitting" and was taken in a moment of sudden intimacy.

It forms part of a glittering private collection owned by James Danziger, the former picture editor of The Sunday Times Magazine and features editor of Vanity Fair, to be sold at Christie's auction house in London on 18 May. The collection, as whole, is expected to fetch about £400,000.

There are the classic images of Muhammad Ali training under water, taken for Life magazine by Flip Schulke, and Andy Warhol's Polaroids of Mick Jagger, as well as Denis Stock's iconic photographs of James Dean walking through drizzle, Elvis Presley and Jackie Kennedy.

Taken by some of the most acclaimed celebrity photographers and artists of the 20th century, it spans Danziger's 30-year career in the world of photography.

Speaking about the image of Monroe, which is likely to fetch up to £1,000, Danziger said: "In 1962, Leif-Erik Nygards was assisting Bert Stern on what became the famous 'Last Sitting' with Marilyn Monroe. After several days of shooting, Stern walked off the set leaving a recumbent Monroe alone with his young assistant.

"Without being asked, Marilyn removed the sheet that been partially covering her and let Nygards take this one shot."

The collection's highlights include a host of legendary figures as well as contemporary portraits of supermodels, such as Giselle riding a white horse as a modern-day lady Godiva, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista and a bare-backed Cindy Crawford standing in the sea. The images, from the 1860s to the late 20th century, include many by photographers working for the acclaimed Magnum agency, as well as now-classic contemporary works by Annie Leibovitz, Peter Lindbergh and Bruce Weber.

It also marks the evolution of fashion-oriented and celebrity photography from Cecil Beaton's solarised portrait of Greta Garbo, George Hurrell's photo of Jane Russell in the film The Outlaw, W Eugene Smith's images of a young Frank Sinatra and Eve Arnold's Monroe on the film set of The Misfits. A selection of Andy Warhol's Polaroids, which offer a special insight into the world of pop stardom that Warhol helped create, featuring Mick Jagger, are estimated to fetch between £4,000 and £6,000.

Danziger said that in creating the collection, he had attempted to amass photographs that had "a quality that spoke to both my eye and heart". He said: "I always tried to acquire prints of images that most resonated with me from the entire history of the medium. Many were by photographers with whom I was connected. Some were by photographers in whose discovery I played a key role. Others spoke to me without any connection other than a visceral response."

Another Christie's sale that celebrates the history of photography will take place in London on the same day.

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