George Dance, Chevalier D'Eon, Graphite with watercolour, bodycolour and red stump

England, 1793

Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée D’Eon de Beaumont (1728–1810) was born into a noble French family. He enjoyed a varied and successful career as a lawyer, soldier, secret agent and diplomat. In 1764, following a diplomatic mission to London, he was invested with the order of St Louis and became known as the Chevalier D’Eon.

The chevalier remained in London living a lavish lifestyle. In 1765, after publishing damaging diplomatic papers, he was outlawed by France. From this point he adopted female clothing as a disguise to disappear.

In the 1770s, the chevalier came to an arrangement with France. Part of this arrangement included him permanently adopting female attire, as a means of controlling his actions and constant duelling. In 1777, when he attempted to return to France in military uniform, D’Eon was forced to wear women’s clothes.

By 1785, D’Eon was back in England where he resumed his social life. He remained in the guise of a woman. He even began public displays of his skills in fencing, wearing women’s clothing and his Croix de St Louis, in order to earn money through the 1790s.

It was at this point that he was drawn by George Dance (1741–1825). This accurate and perceptive portrait shows precisely what Dance saw; a man dressed as a woman, straight-backed in the chair, the order which gave him his title proudly and prominently displayed on his chest.

L. Binyon, Catalogue of Drawings by British Artists and Artists of Foreign Origin Working in Great Britain in the Collection of the British Museum, (London, 1898–1907)

J.M.J. Rogister, 'Charles Geneviève Louis Auguste André Timothée D’Eon de Beaumont', Oxford DNB, (article 7523)

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Dimensions

Height: 256.000 mm
Width: 192.000 mm

Museum number

1898,0712.19

Location

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