The oversized picture measures 30 inches by 37 inches and was signed by the late Playboy founder in the lower right-hand corner. The famous image is recognized as the “Red Velvet” pose taken by Tom Kelley and was used for the inaugural issue of Playboy in December 1953. The minimum bid is listed at $7,500.
“This image helped launch Marilyn into superstardom and also boosted Playboy, which became an iconic part of American culture,” a rep for the auction house told Fox News on Wednesday.
“This is a unique opportunity for Marilyn fans to own one of her most iconic images. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner signed the image, which helped launch his magazine. Hefner and Monroe are encrypted next to each other at Westwood Memorial Park.”
According to the auction house, Kelley shot the “Red Velvet” photos of a young Monroe in 1949 for a calendar. The cash-strapped Monroe originally turned down the idea of posing nude out of concern that it would negatively impact her career. However, Monroe eventually relented and she was paid $50 for the shoot.
Visitors look at a photo of Marilyn Monroe taken by Tom Kelley in 1949, displayed at the ‘Marilyn’ exhibition at Prague Castle on May 29, 2013, in Prague, Czech Republic.
(Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
Despite the image’s popularity, Monroe never received another dime from the pictures. The star is quoted as telling a friend, “I even had to buy a copy of the magazine to see myself in it,” NPR reported.
At the time, Hefner needed a headliner to draw interest in his new magazine, which was scheduled to launch at the end of 1954. Hefner acquired the rights to use Kelley’s nude photo of Monroe in the centerfold of the first Playboy issue for $500.
Monroe went on to become a box office star and sex symbol after appearing in films, like 1953’s “Niagara,” as well as “Gentleman Prefer Blondes,” which was released that same year. As for Playboy, over 50,000 copies of the inaugural issue were sold, helping to launch the magazine as an American institution.
Monroe passed away in 1962 at age 36 from a barbiturate overdose. Hefner died in 2017 at age 91.
Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
(PRNewsfoto/Playboy Enterprises, Inc/AP)
Executive producer Nicolas Kent, who was involved in the Smithsonian Channel documentary “Marilyn Monroe for Sale,” told Fox News in 2018, the daring snaps nearly ended Monroe’s career in Hollywood as it was skyrocketing.
“The photos made Playboy, but the Hollywood studio [was] massively embarrassed by this,” he explained at the time. “They’re telling Marilyn to deny and reject those photos… she ignores their advice. She just admits to it. And she does it in such a charming, smart way that instead of suffering from it, she actually becomes more famous, and it really boosts her sex appeal. Monroe stands up to the establishment.”
“In the ‘50s and even early 60s, America and the world was a much more prudish place,” he shared. “It’s one of the reasons why Marilyn survived as such an iconic figure. Her sex appeal was so pure and unapologetic.”