Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gerda Gottlieb Wegener Porta (15 March 1886 - 28 July 1940) was a Danish illustrator and painter best known for her erotica.

WOMEN DETERMINED TO SUCCEED: Gerda’s works were delightful, charming, provocative and surprisingly shocking eroticism imbued with an Art Deco sensibility.

Gerda was no shrinking violet but was a dynamic personality fueled by an ambition to acquire the bourgeoisie ambiance and trappings of society. Together with her husband Einar, she was part of the Parisian artist scene, living a life with decadence sex and fashion. Her expensive apartment and studio was in the fashionable quartier Tour Eiffel and at their summer home on the banks of the Loire she would stage parties for two thousand invited guests. It is sad to realize that despite her prolific career and all these extravagances, in the end she died in poverty and obscurity.


In the 1930s transformation surgery was risky and at an experimental stage. Her husband, Einar Wegener, a known transsexual, liked to disappear into the streets of Paris in one of his costumes. In female guise as “Lili”, at first he cross-dressed as a favor to Gerda, who needed a female model to pose for one of her portraits. After cross-dressing Wegener became convinced he had another personality---a female one. Urged by this realization he traveled to Germany for sex reassignment surgery and afterwards went by the name Lili Elbe. Lili lived a double life in Paris attending parties, balls and socials as Lili, and gained many admirers. Sadly Lili passed away from complications after her fifth operation. However, Gerda had supported Lili throughout her transition, but the King of Denmark declared the Wegeners’ marriage null and void in 1930.

Gerda was not without admirers and along came a suitor that would rescue her and begin a new stage in her life's story. She subsequently married an Italian air force officer and diplomat, Major Fernando Porta. By all estimates they were an enviable couple, romantic and wildly in love, and moved to Morocco, settling in Marrakech and Casablanca. The marriage lasted about 8 years. She returned to Denmark in 1938, but this time her work was largely out of fashion. Although she died impoverished and largely forgotten her story comes to life in the international best seller, The Danish Girl, a novel by David Ebershoff. The novel is being developed for the screen and Nicole Kidman will be playing the role of Einar/LiLi and Gwynneth Paltrow will the playing the role of Gerda.

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