September 25, 2008 / 5:35 PM / 10 years ago

Lawsuit seeks return of nude Marilyn Monroe photos

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A photographer has sued for the return of seven photographs he took of Marilyn Monroe in the nude during the legendary “last sitting” in a hotel room just weeks before her death.

A press photographer takes pictures at an exhibition of Marilyn Monroe property at Christie's auction house in London September 17, 1999. REUTERS/Paul Hackett

Photographer Bert Stern, who owns the rights to thousands of Monroe images, shot the photographs in question in July 1962 at the Bel Air Hotel. He is demanding the prints from three people who obtained them.

Stern had sold the pictures to “Eros Magazine,” but the images were never returned, according to a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in New York State Supreme Court.

Stern did not realize the images were missing until he was approached by three individuals who had obtained the photographs and wanted to license them, said his lawyer Stephen Weingrad.

Those individuals “offered to return the remaining prints demanding compensation or payment,” the lawsuit said.

The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.

The lawsuit demands the return of the photographs plus $1 million and unspecified punitive damages for lost income relating to the licensing of the images.

The shoot became known as “The Last Sitting” because six weeks later, in August 1962, the actress died of a drugs overdose at the age of 36. The photographs are among the most famous Monroe images ever recorded.

In February, Stern reprised the famous photo shoot for New York magazine with U.S. actress Lindsay Lohan, 21, posing as Monroe.

The pictures were so popular that the magazine’s website crashed, receiving around 20 million daily page views on the first three days they were posted. The average daily page view during the previous month was 1.2 million.

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Sandra Maler

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