Preserved in time, a stunning Parisian apartment, shrouded in dust and filled with turn-of-the-century marvels, has emerged as a captivating journey into history. Untouched for seven decades, this hidden dwelling came to light three years ago after the passing of its 91-year-old owner, Mrs. De Florian.
Having evacuated to the south of France before World War II, Mrs. De Florian never returned to her residence in Paris’s 9th arrondissement. Over the next 70 years, it seemed no one had ventured inside. Nestled between the notorious Pigalle red light district and the Opera, this secret near a church held undiscovered secrets.
A team of experts undertook the task of cataloging the possessions in this extraordinary time capsule. Among the treasures, a painting by 19th-century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini stood out. Stepping into the apartment, expert Olivier Choppin-Janvry likened the experience to finding Sleeping Beauty’s castle, where time had seemingly stopped in 1900. The air carried the scent of old dust, setting the stage for an extraordinary discovery.
Choppin-Janvry’s heart skipped a beat when he encountered a mesmerizing tableau featuring a woman in a pink muslin evening dress. The painting, by Boldini, depicted Marthe de Florian, a stunning French actress and socialite of the Belle Époque. She was not only Boldini’s muse but also the grandmother of the apartment’s owner.
Marthe de Florian, the captivating actress, had preserved passionate love letters from numerous admirers, neatly tied with ribbons, discovered alongside the painting. Notable among her suitors were the 72nd prime minister of France, George Clemenceau, and, of course, Boldini himself.
Initially suspected to be Boldini’s work, the lack of any record posed a challenge. The breakthrough came when a visiting card with a love note from Boldini was found, establishing the connection. The painting, revealed to have been crafted in 1898 when Miss de Florian was 24, became the centerpiece of an extraordinary auction.
With a starting price of £253,000, the bidding frenzy ensued, attracting ten eager participants. Ultimately, the historic work fetched an astounding £1.78 million, setting a world record for the artist.
Describing the moment, art specialist Marc Ottavi remarked, ‘It was a magic moment. One could see that the buyer loved the painting; he paid the price of passion.’ This Parisian time capsule not only unveiled a breathtaking masterpiece but also provided a rare glimpse into a bygone era, captivating art enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.