PHOTOGRAPHS of Marilyn Monroe appearing relaxed and lounging around a New York apartment nine months before she died were unveiled yesterday after being held in a private archive for more than 45 years.

Photographer Len Steckler shot the black-and-white images of Monroe when she unexpectedly arrived at his apartment in December 1961, to visit his friend, Pulitzer-prize winning poet Carl Sandburg.

Steckler is offering them for a sale.

“It was serendipitous with these two icons in their moment and me there with my camera,” the photographer told Reuters yesterday.

He said he was “like a fly on the wall” while he shot Monroe, then 35, and Sandburg, 83, as they chatted and held hands.

On the afternoon Monroe visited, Sandburg had mentioned in a casual manner that they would soon have “a visitor.”

“Hours later I went to open the door and there I was face to face with Marilyn Monroe, and she looked more ravishing than on the screen,” he said. “She said ‘I am sorry I am late. I was at the hairdressers, matching my hair to Carl’s.'”