Above is a 2010 photo of a 19th century flat in Paris that had not been touched or seen by the outside world since the owner left it locked in the year 1940.
This story first broke in 2010, but it is absolutely captivating so I MUST put it out there on my blog in case anyone else has not yet heard of it.
The woman who lived in this apartment reportedly fled for the south of France as the Nazi’s invaded Paris during the Fall of France in the Second World War. She left all her possessions and those that were passed down to her when she acquired the flat from her grandmother. She continued to pay rental/maintenance fees but kept the apartment locked and shuttered. She never returned to Paris.
When the woman died at the age of 91 in 2010, her heirs had her estate inventoried for liquidation.
At that time, professional appraisers were enlisted to enter the apartment and catalog its contents.
Below is the account first published in The Telegraph in October of 2010:
Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.
“There was a smell of old dust,” said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table.
A veritable time capsule, the flat yielded many treasures but the most valuable of them was a previously undiscovered painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.
The portrait displayed the wispy image of a delicate woman in a pink satiny dress.
At first the inventory crew could not identify the painting because it was not listed in any Boldini reference books. But with a little sleuthing, they connected the painting to old love letters also found in the apartment.
The painting was by Boldini and the subject a beautiful Frenchwoman who turned out to be the artist’s former muse and whose granddaughter it was who had left the flat uninhabited for more than half a century.
The muse was Marthe de Florian, an actress with a long list of ardent admirers, whose fervent love letters she kept wrapped neatly in ribbon and were still on the premises. Among the admirers was the 72nd prime minister of France, George Clemenceau, but also Boldini.
– from: www.telegraph.co.uk/
The extraordinary Marthe de Florian was having a torrid affair with the married artist Boldini during the flourishing Belle Époque era in Paris. He captured her image on canvas in 1898 when Miss de Florian was 24. The painting was kept private and handed down to Marthe de Florian’s granddaughter along with the Paris apartment. The granddaughter’s name remains unpublished due to strict French privacy laws.
Since the press has been unable to discover the exact identity of the elderly woman who died in 2010, we have been unable to uncover the story of why and how she fled from her Paris flat during World War II, and why she never returned. Why did she continue to pay rent and maintenance but kept the door locked on the apartment for seven decades?
The intrigue surrounding the pink-dress lady painting led to it being auctioned off in 2010 for $3 million – a record price for Boldini’s work.
As for the apartment, I could not find any paper trail of what happened to it – presumably it sold or perhaps it may still be in the possession of the same family. The exact address has been kept private due to French civil law.
We do know that the building is located in the 9th district near the Trinité church in Paris between the Pigalle red light district and the Paris Opera house. It could not have been in a more intrinsically romantic region of Paris.
This story is the perfect convergence of art history/World War II history/Parisian art culture/19th century décor along with an illicit affair and an enduring mystery……..
For the love of God, somebody please write a book or screenplay about this!!!!