Lili Elbe Fountain at Petit Trianon, ca. 1912
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An original oil painting, ca. 1912, by the Danish artist who later became known as one of the first known recipients of sex reassignment surgery, depicting a reflection in the fountain of the Petit Trianon in the grounds of Versailles. Oil on cardboard. A few spots of apparent retouching, scattered craquelure, overall fine. 10.x x 13.5 inches (34 x 27 cm). In a worn but attractive period wooden frame, as obtained from a Danish collection. Unsigned, but with provenance from the Copenhagen auction house Bruun Rasmussen and unquestionably in the hand of Elbe, this work closely related to the signed and titled painting "Trianon," sold Swann Galleries NY 2019.
Elbe was the primary model and muse for her spouse, Gerda Wegener. Together, they explored the themes of love, sex, gender, and mystery in both life and art. Elbe also had success as a painter, primarily under the name Einar Wegener. She is known for her Impressionistic landscapes, many of which depict Parisian scenes. As the first woman to undergo gender affirming surgery, she became a critical figure in the LGBTQ community. After her successful transition in 1930, she changed her legal name to Lili Ilse Elvenes and stopped painting. Unfortunately, as the methods were largely untested and the surgery was dangerous, she passed away from complications of her fourth surgery. In 2000, a novel loosely based on her life was published and was turned into a feature-length film, The Danish Girl, in 2015.