- Museum number
- Object: Carola Genovefa Louisa Augusta Andrea Timothea D'Eon de Beaumont
D'Eon dressed as Minerva, stands outside a tent, a spear in right hand, in left a shield with the Medusa head inscribed "At nunc dura dedit vobis discrimina Pallas". D'Eon wears the cross of St. Louis.
In the foreground (right) are muskets, a drum, flags, &c, one flag inscribed "Impavidum Ferient Ruinæ". In the background (left) is a camp, with a row of tents, a sentry and three mounted dragoons. Beneath the title is engraved: "Knight of the Royal & military order of St. Louis Captain of Dragoons Aide-de-Camp to the Marechal Duke de Broglio; Minister Plenipotentiary from France to the King of Great Britain". Beneath, on a separate plate, is engraved an account of d'Eon; it concludes "... the secret of her sex was discover'd in London in febry 1771 through many accidents and Particulary [sic] through the declaration of the Princess Askoff ...". See BMSat 4865, &c. C. E. Russell, 'English Mezzotint Portraits', ii. 457. 20 March 1773
- Production date
Height: 85 millimetres (separate second inscription plate)
Height: 380 millimetres
Width: 277 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This is the earliest print in the British Museum's collection which marks a change in the presentation of the Chevalier d'Eon. The public uncertainty surrounding the sitter's sex is no longer a spur to the kind of prurient satirical prints which had appeared in the summer and autumn of 1771 (for examples of which, see 1886,1221.6 and 2010,7081.362). Instead, it reflects a growing certainty that d'Eon was indeed a woman, which resulted in a more respectful presentation, often with attributes of Minerva, or references to Amazons and Joan of Arc. This is perhaps the most dramatic of such images. Bare-breasted, armed and wearing a plumed helmet, this feminised d'Eon stands before a tent in reference to his great deeds on the battlefield.
The lengthy description below the print describes the circumstances of the 'discovery' of the Chevalier's true sex. It refers to the agency of 'Princess Askoff', namely Yekaterina Vorontsova-Dashova, known in England as Princess Dashkov, a close friend of Catherine the Great who visited England in February 1771. It was claimed that she had known the Chevalier during his time at the court in St Petersburg and had known d'Eon there as a woman. Her testimony is said to have 'revealed' the truth in London. This is, however, very unlikely. There is no evidence that Princess Dashkov and the Chevalier were friends and d'Eon is not mentioned in her letters or memoirs.
Gary Kates ("Monsieur d'Eon is a Woman") has suggested that Princess Dashkov's arrival provided an opportunity for initial rumours to be spread, perhaps also by d'Eon, about the uncertainty of the Chevalier's sex. The publication of the present print in 1773 suggests that such rumours were, by that time, even stronger and considered to be well-founded in fact and Kates believes that d'Eon was actively encouraging them. When his patron, the Comte de Broglie, sent his secretary to London in May-June 1772 to find out the truth of the rumours - which had spread across much of Europe by this time - the secretary reported that d'Eon had claimed to be a woman. In de Broglie's report to Louis XV, he recounts that the secretary 'can certify to me, after having examined and touched with much attention, that the so-called Sieur d'Eon is a girl and is nothing other than a girl, that he has all of the attributes of one and all of the regular inconveniences' (cited in Kates).
This all suggests that the sitter of this print was attempting to create a persona as a dashing woman in disguise - a role that was admirably visualised in this print - which would enable the Chevalier to evade much of the political storm created in France by their publication of "Lettres, memoires et negociations" in 1764 (see 1888,0716.372 for this).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number