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08 Jun 2012

“Why DOES this Frenchwoman need a shave?”

eighteenth century portrait of a middle-aged person in flamboyant feminine costume, a large plumed hat, wide, decorative collar in lace
Thomas Stewart, after Jean Laurent Mosnier, Chevalier D’Eon, oil on canvas, 1792 NPG 6937 © National Portrait Gallery, London

“During his life, he was a spy, champion fencer, triumphant fugitive and incorrigible cross-dresser – and now, two centuries after his death, the Chevalier D’Eon has added another achievement to his list. For the gentleman rogue has become the first transvestite ever to hang on the National Portrait Gallery’s walls. The long-lost picture came to light in a provincial auction, and for years was thought to be that of a woman – albeit a heavy- jawed one. But British art dealer Philip Mould had a hunch. This woman had stubble.” (Daily Mail, 8 June 2012)