I was quite excited to read a few days ago about a recently-discovered painting, reportedly of the world’s first transvestite.
The portrait was sold in New York to a British gallery and was originally marked as a ‘woman in a feathered hat’.
It has since been discovered to be a painting of a man dressed as a woman and is thought to be the earliest known picture of a transvestite. Hooray!
So who was this daring guy that flouted the rules of society? Well, it has been confirmed to be one Monsieur Chevalier D’Eon who was, according to the research, a ‘legendary’ French 18th-century transvestite.
The painting was discovered in a Manhattan auction house by art historian Philip Mould, who works on the BBC programme “Antiques Roadshow”. It was Mr Mould who carried out the investigation that resulted in the identification of the sitter as Chevalier D’Eon, known as ‘the patron saint of transvestites’. Really? We have a patron saint? Who knew? And why has no-one told me this before?
Apparently the National Gallery in London is seriously considering buying the painting and, should they do so, it will be the Gallery’s first painting of a crossdresser! Anyone in London can go and view the painting at Mr Mould’s gallery in Dover Street … I may make a pilgrimage!
As well as being a transvestite, our Mssr Chevalier was a spy, diplomat, international traveler and fencer. He led a suitably colourful life as a French aristocrat that included seeing service in the Dragoons and carrying out espionage for King Louis XV on the Russian Tsar while dressed as … guess what? A maid. Typical … even back then the maid uniform was a staple tranny outfit!!
In the 1700’s crossdressing was virtually unheard of, but Chevalier spent thirty years of his life dressed as a woman and insisted on being addressed in the feminine.
It wasn’t until a medical examination after his death on May 21, 1810 that D’Eon was revealed to be a man despite his own insistence to the contrary.
- Portrait of the Patron Saint of Transvestites (neatorama.com)