a lili by any other name

Danish painter Einar Wegener* (1882 – 1931) was a successful artist.

image found here

His life story is told in a book entitled Man into Woman, published in 1933. Einar was a perfectly normal boy, both physically and mentally. At the age of twenty he married; his wife Gerda was a painter too, and their marriage was a happy one. One day, an actress whose portrait was being painted by his wife was unable to come for her sitting. Einar’s wife persuaded him to wear stockings and heels and pose for the drapery and legs.

Gerda found here

Over time, Gerda became famous for her paintings of beautiful women with haunting almond-shaped eyes dressed in chic fashions. In approximately 1913, the unsuspecting public was shocked to discover that the model who had inspired Gerda’s depictions of petite femmes fatales was in fact Einar.

example of Gerda’s artwork found here

In 1930 Einar went to Germany for surgery, which was only in an experimental state at the time. A series of five operations were carried out over a period of two years. The first surgery, removal of the testicles, was made under the supervision of sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin.

At the time of Einar’s surgery the case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. The King of Denmark invalidated the Wegeners’ marriage in October 1930, and Einar managed to get his sex and name legally changed, receiving a passport as Lili Elbe.

Lili by Gerda found here

The rest of Lili’s surgeries were carried out in the Dresden Municipal Women’s Clinic. The second operation was to remove the penis, and transplant ovaries, which were taken from a 26-year-old woman. These were soon removed in a third then fourth operation, due to rejection and other serious complications. The fifth operation was to transplant a uterus and was intended to allow Lili, then nearing the age of 50, to become a mother. She soon after died of transplant rejections.

Gerda Wegener went on to marry an Italian military officer, aviator, and diplomat, Major Fernando Porta, and move to Morocco, where she would learn of the death of Elbe, whom she described to a friend as “my poor little Lily.” (By contrast, she described her second husband as “a magnificent, splendid and peerless hunk of man”.) After living for several years in Marrakech and Casablanca, the Portas divorced, and Gerda returned to Denmark, where she died in 1940.

image found here

Gerda is still recognised today as one of the leading art deco artists of the early twentieth century. Her book and magazine illustrations included both high fashion and lesbian and straight erotica. Lili was one of Gerda’s favourite models, wearing women’s clothes or nude. As a fashion designer in Paris, Gerda was influential in setting fashion trends. It is amusing to consider that the 1920s small breasted feminine ideal may have been influenced by Lili’s figure.

Gerda’s artwork found here

* As well as at wikipedia, information regarding Lili Elbe and Gerda was found here

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40 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Cocks aren’t everything, but I’m glad I’ve still got mine!

    Great artwork though, Deco is one of my faves.

    The King

    • I think queenwilly is rather glad you still have yours too 😉

  2. Totally beautiful artwork, yes. And an amazing story too.

    They’re the sort of pics that could be up on a wall for a few days before anyone noticed anything untoward. I could have a lot of fun with that.

    But I won’t.

    • Melbo please please leave your blog link here – I can’t find it

      • Thanks and will do.

      • Ooh, thought it didn’t work but it did. My name should take you to it. But just in case:


  3. Well, there you go then. Poor old Lil’.

  4. We think of ourselves as so forward thinking these days, I’m pleased you write these posts to show us who the innovators really were.

  5. That’s got to be the sweetest erotica I’ve ever seen. It’s really charming.

  6. i’ll take Robert Vaughn, please…

    • Sorry, Daisyfae, but I was first in that queue years ago!

  7. Have just taken some time off from my restless search for beautiful women with haunting almond shaped eyes to read your entertaining and informative article. Well done – again!

  8. I’m so naive that I was surprised to read that sex change operations occurred that long ago — experimental or not! Artists are such weirdos. Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to them.

  9. The artwork: erotic and sensual without being pornographic. Art deco style influence apparent.

  10. It’s actually quite amazing how and when sex rears its head in the world. From European countries that consider nudity a thing of beauty, to the shores of America, where hinting at sex was such in inbreed bad thing (Allen Sherman: Rape of the A. P. E. American puritanical ethic), married couples were depicted sleeping in two different beds.

    Quite an artist.

  11. Fascinating. I hadn’t heard about Gerda and Lili. Tragic that the problem of rejected transplants was apparently not known about in those days. Very amusing about Lili’s influence on 1920s busts. And yes, the art is wonderful. As SE says, the sweetest erotica ever.

  12. I’ve always had a bit of a crush on Art Deco…

  13. Hmmmm… Gerda’s artwork is rather pleasing to the eye. Not worth losing your tickle-tackle for though.

  14. “…sexologist” ? That sounds like a distinctly quack job title.

  15. HOT! Gerda was a total kinkster.

  16. Sexology… maybe if they told us about that in school I would have been more interested in the sciences. And maybe if math had more swearing and tits in it I would have done better in that subject too.

    • Oh you would have loved australian schools. Swearing and tits was the whole morning.

  17. Couldn’t Gerda have done well enough without including his adams apple? haha

  18. Cool story. Love the artwork! Poor Lily. It’s unbearably sad to think they thought they could just sew in a uterus and she could have a baby.

  19. Fascinating.

  20. Another fascinating story!

  21. That’s one good reason to never be a model.

  22. the paintings are real nice.
    i love the eyes.

  23. I have no use for my uterus.

    Where can I donate it?

  24. For you, my dear:


    Hope you like it 😉

    • Oh I do, in fact you’ve inspired me to do a little comeback

  25. …but the guy decided to start with the transformation due to wife s desire?
    and then, the woman say that poor Lilly and not like the real man that now I ve got??
    not so nice woman I tell ya

    • I think you may have misunderstood. Einar desired the transformation, posing as a woman for his wife’s paintings was just a catalyst for the change

  26. Very cool story, and, as someone else said, very charming (and tasteful, I think) erotica.

    Now, who’s got my slice of Yul Brynner?!

    • Yul is most definitely MINE

  27. Great post, I’m a lifetime student of art and try to hit a museum in every city I visit.

    I got to tell you though, I really miss the old Friday schedule. It made me feel all tingly!

  28. such fascinating stories you have, nurse myra.
    they say that to be able to create great art, one has to first experience life.
    my life seems dull in comparison.
    you are a ray of sunshine.

  29. What a tale and I love Gerda’s artwork too. I do believe that sometimes people are born as the wrong sex. In this case, Lili woke up through posing for Gerda but on occasion, I’ve seen children who are definitely miscast as the wrong sex. Great post as always Myra.

  30. Lili first had a willy. Heh.

    That last piece of artwork is pretty fucking hot.

  31. interesting ,amazing and odd.

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