Nicole Kidman to play Lili Elbe?

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Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener).  Wellcome Images no. L0047115.

Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener).
Wellcome Images no. L0047115.

This painting from our collections is of Lili Elbe, one of the world’s first transsexuals, and who – if reports are true – is to be portrayed in a new film by Nicole Kidman.

Lili was born male in 1882 in Denmark as Einar Wegener. In 1904 he married Gerda Gottlieb, a fellow painter. During the 1920s Lili Elbe was Einar’s female alter ego but between 1929 and 1930 after several – previously untried – surgical operations to reconfigure his genital organs, Einar became Lili.

This image – painted by Gerda – was produced during the 1920s and purchased by the Wellcome Library in 2007.

Lili Elbe died during a further operation in Stockholm in 1931. She was the subject of Fra mand til kvinde, published in Danish in 1931, which was translated into German and thence into English as Man into Woman(London, 1933).

In 1999 Lili Elbe’s story was fictionalised in David Ebershoff’s The Danish Girl. This book will form the basis of the new film.

Ross Macfarlane

Ross Macfarlane is the Research Engagement Officer at the Wellcome Library.

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