Chevalier d’Éon (1728-1810) – first known painting of a transvestite

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.

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