The art dealer and finder Phillip Mold was researching the sale rooms of the Thomas Cornell Gallery in Patchogue, United States, last November, when he found a captivating portrait of what appeared to be a manly-looking woman. The canvas read: "Portrait of a woman with a feather in her hat”And was attributed to the painter Gilbert Stuart, who is famous for having portrayed George Washington in the work that was eventually transferred to dollars.
Mold thought that there would be something else behind that painting, so he acquired it at auction and took it back to his gallery in London to find out more about it. A thorough cleaning revealed the date and signature of the original author of the work: “Thomas Stewart, 1792”. This is an English painter of the century XVIII Not much is known about today, but from 1780 he became famous for painting portraits of actors.
Documentary studies reveal that wrong attribution of authorship to Gilbert Stuart has been coming for a long time. In 1926, the Lawrence Park catalog included a painting that met the same description as the painting acquired by Mold. The original owner of the work was the second Earl of Moira, Francis Hastings Rawdon, who collected exotic things. Beginning on his journey across the Atlantic, he loses track of the painting.
The cleaning also brought to light another detail: a noticeable shadow coming from the nose of the lady's face, very similar to a certain painting said to have the Count of Moira in the Chevalier d'Eon. This would show that the one that appears in the picture is none other than Charles Genevieve Louis Auguste André Timothée D’Eon de Beaumont, also know as "Chevalier d'Eon”.
d’Eon is a man who spent his first 49 years of life dressed in a masculine way, fighting in the GSeven Years War, serving as a minister in London in 1763 and fomenting political intrigues as a member of "Le Secret du Roi”, The secret network of spies of King Louis XV. When another aristocrat was appointed ambassador, demoting d’Eon to secretarial positions, he threatened the king with revealing secret letters from the spy ring. His blackmail worked for him and he got a life pension in 1766 that would last until 1774.
This year, Louis XVI would establish a new pact with d'Eon For which he would keep his pension, if he returned the letters and, necessarily, was always dressed as a woman. This last point was due to the fact that a short time before, d’Eon had announced that she was biologically female. The treaty stated that if he was seen wearing men's clothing, he would be arrested.
In 1785 he returned permanently to England, always wearing women's clothing, but without behaving as such. According to the witnesses of the time, he walked like a man, spoke like a man and had all the male vices. Still, her sexuality was widely debated in social circles, leading to a bet on it on the London Stock Exchange.
After the French Revolution his pension was denied and he had to make a living as a swordsman. He gave fencing lessons and exhibitions to anyone who wanted to pay for them. This lasted until 1796, when he was seriously injured and had to sell even his medals to be able to face the debts he had incurred.
After his death in 1810, his corpse was examined by the coroner to resolve the open debate in society. It was a surprise to find that her male genitalia were completely intact. The Chevalier d’Eon was so associated with gender ambiguity that psychologist Havelock Ellis coined a term called “enonism” for describe cross-dressing and other transsexual behaviors.
Although there are several engravings and impressions on the Chevalier d'Eon, the painting that Phillip Mold acquired is the only oil painting of him. It is certainly the first portrait of a transvestite man wearing women's clothing.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.