Portrait, possibly of Lili Elbe.

  • Wegener, Gerda
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Portrait, possibly of Lili Elbe. Wellcome Collection. In copyright. Source: Wellcome Collection.

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About this work

Also known as

Previous title replaced March 2023: Lili Elbe (?). Watercolour attributed to Gerda Wegener, ca. 1928.


The Bonham's catalogue identifies the sitter as Lili Elbe but this has not been confirmed from independent sources. The same person appears in another watercolour (watercolour, gouache, gold paint, pencil and Conté on white medium weight handmade paper 76.2 x 55.9 cm.) that was with Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels, in 2010. The Derom painting shows the sitter smoking a cigarette in a cigarette holder, shows a second woman applying face powder on the left, appears to be more monochrome than the present painting, and has other differences especially in the background. The Bonham's catalogue identifies Lili Elbe as the sitter.


[France?], [1928?]

Physical description

1 painting : watercolour ; sheet 76.2 x 53.8 cm

Biographical note

Gerda Gottlieb Wegener married Lili Elbe in 1904. In 1929-1930 Lili Elbe underwent several, previously untried, gender reassignment surgical procedures in Berlin and Dresden. In a Danish cause célèbre, the marriage of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener was annulled because under Danish and other law it was impossible for two women to be married to each other. Elbe died in Dresden in September 1931 where she is also buried. She was the subject of the book published in German in 1931 and then translated into Danish as 'Fra mand til kvinde', and thence into English as 'Man into woman' (London 1933). A "work of fiction loosely inspired by the case of Einar Wegener and his wife" was published in 1999 (David Ebershoff, The Danish girl, quotation from Author's note in the book).


Gerda Wegener


Wellcome Collection 661110i

Creator/production credits

Gerda Gottlieb Wegener (1889-1940) was a Danish painter. The attribution of this painting to Gerda Wegener rests on her name which appears on the work in the lower right. A similar painting carrying the signature "Gerda Wegener Paris 1928" (all in capital letters as in the present watercolour) was with Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels, in 2010 (subsequently sold).

Exhibitions note

Exhibited: 'The Institute of Sexology', Wellcome Collection, London, 19 Nov 2014-20 Sept 2015.


This work is untitled: the title has been supplied by the cataloguer.

Where to find it

  • Location Access
    On Exhibition
    Can't be requested


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