Lili Elbe (?)

Image credit: Wellcome Collection

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The identity of the sitter has not been confirmed from independent sources. The work could be a fantasy portrait of female elegance in general, a type to which Lili Elbe could aspire. The same person appears in another watercolour that was with Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels, in 2010. The Derom painting shows the sitter smoking a cigarette in a cigarette holder, shows a second woman applying face powder on the left, appears to be more monochrome than the present painting, and has other differences especially in the background. In 1904 Gerda Gottlieb Wegener married Einar Wegener (born a male in Denmark in 1882), who had a female alter ego called Lili Elbe. They were both painters. In 1929–1930 Einar Wegener underwent several, previously untried, surgical operations in Berlin and Dresden to reconfigure his genital organs.

Wellcome Collection



Lili Elbe (?)




watercolour on paper (?)


H 76.2 x W 53.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

purchased by the Wellcome Library at Bonhams Auction House, 2007

Work type



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