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Lili Elbe (?). Watercolour attributed to Gerda Wegener, ca. 1928.

Wegener, Gerda.
[between 1920 and 1929?]


Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
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The identity of the sitter has not been confirmed from independent sources. The work could be a fantasy portrait of female elegance in general, a type to which Lili Elbe could aspire. 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 In 1904 Gerda Gottlieb Wegener married Einar Wegener (born a male in Denmark in 1882), who had a female alter ego called Lili Elbe. They were both painters. In 1929-1930 Einar Wegener underwent several, previously untried, surgical operations in Berlin and Dresden to reconfigure his genital organs. In a Danish cause célèbre, the marriage of Einar 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)



[between 1920 and 1929?]

Physical description

1 painting : watercolour ; sheet 76.2 x 53.8 cm


Gerda Wegener

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You can use this work for any purpose, including commercial uses, without restriction under copyright law. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.

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Lili Elbe (?). Watercolour attributed to Gerda Wegener, ca. 1928. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

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