What better time – Gay Pride Weekend – to hang up a painting of Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont. We can’t say whether or not he was gay, but the Chevalier d’Eon certainly enjoyed dressing up in women’s clothing.
The chevalier had quite a career – French diplomat, spy, soldier and Freemason. His first 49 years were spent as a man, the last 33 years as a woman. Upon death, a council of physicians discovered that d’Éon’s body was anatomically male.
This 18th century painting was sold in New York to a British gallery as a “woman in a feathered hat”. Not so. It turned out to be our chevalier, the earliest known painting of a transvestite.
The portrait now hangs in the British National Portraits Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square.