Painting of the Patron Saint of Transvestites Makes a Reappearance.
It’s the oldest portrait of a transvestite that has reappeared in a New York sales room. It’s not just any transvestite, however, as it’s probably the most famous in the world – the Chevalier d’Eon.
The curiosity of art dealer and art historian Philip Mould was piqued when he clapped eyes on what he was told was a “portrait of a woman with a feather hat” – a work from the 18th century. The “woman” in question had, he thought, some very masculine physical traits.
After a thorough cleaning of the painting, the truth was revealed: The portrait is that of the legendary spy, diplomat and transvestite the Chevalier d’Eon – a painting that had been lost to the world of art since 1926.
According to a report by News Discovery, the portrait is currently in the possession of Philip Mould but could easily end up in the permanent collection of the British National Portraits.
The other major discovery associated with this find is that the author of the work is not Gilbert Stuart – to whom it was previously attributed – but is one Thomas Stewart. Stewart was an artist who painted actors and theatre scenery in the 1790s. The portrait was discovered in the collection that belonged to Ruth Stone; daughter of Samuel Klein.
The Chevalier d’Eon (whose real name was Charles Geneviève Louis d’Eon de Beaumont) is considered to be the Patron Saint of Transvestites and his life was said to have been amongst the most colourful and picaresque of the 18th century.It is believed that he carried out espionage work on behalf of King Louis XV of France, his spying activities taking place in drag and under the very nose of the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth, before he went on to become French ambassador to England.
In a blog devoted to the life of the Chevalier, Pierre Assouline describes him as veritable character of the time: “If he had only been a hermaphrodite, we wouldn’t be talking about him any more; he was talked about widely because of his taste for transvestism but if his life had only been about that…, his reputation would not have survived him … in his time, he was called Charles de Baumont, a non-conformist, an eccentric, a madman… In this book, we see him in Saint Petersburg negotiating with Tsarina Elisabeth an alliance with France, then preparing a plan for an invasion of England, a country where he ended his lives (49 years as a man and 33 as a woman) in misery. He was officially resident there as a woman. At his death, however, a council of doctors declared him to be a man.