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Sold at Auction: Einar Wegener

(1882-1931)
Alias: Einar-WegenerLili ElbeEinar Morgens Andreas WegenerEinar Morgens Magnus Andreas Wegener
Painter

Biography

Lili Ilse Elvenes (28 December 1882 – 13 September 1931), better known as Lili Elbe, was a Danish painter and transgender woman, and among the early recipients of sex reassignment surgery. She was a successful painter under her birth name Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener. After transitioning in 1930, she changed her legal name to Lili Ilse Elvenes and stopped painting; she later adopted the surname Elbe. She died from complications following a uterus transplant. The US and UK English versions of her semi-autobiographical narrative were published posthumously in 1933 under the title Man into Woman: An Authentic Record of a Change of Sex.

Early life: It is generally believed that Elbe was born in 1882, in Vejle, Denmark. Her year of birth is sometimes stated as 1886, which appears to be from a book about her which has some facts changed to protect the identities of the persons involved. Facts about the life of her wife Gerda Gottlieb suggest that the 1882 date is correct because they married while at college in 1904, when Elbe would have been just eighteen if the 1886 date were correct.

It is speculated that Elbe was intersex, although that has been disputed. Some reports indicate that she already had rudimentary ovaries in her abdomen and may have had Klinefelter syndrome.

Death: Elbe's immune system rejected the transplanted uterus, and the operation and a subsequent surgical revision caused infection, which led to her death from cardiac arrest on 13 September 1931, three months after the surgery.

Elbe was buried in Trinitatisfriedhof [de] (Trinity Cemetery) in Dresden. The grave was levelled in the 1960s. In April 2016, a new tombstone was inaugurated, financed by Focus Features, the production company of The Danish Girl. The tombstone does not record the date of Elbe's birth, just her name and places of birth and death.
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