As the Nazis invaded Paris in World War II, a Parisian woman escaped to Southern France, leaving her lavish apartment behind. She never returned to the apartment even after the war. For 70 years, the contents in the apartment sat there untouched.
Nobody would have opened the door to this 1940s apartment, located at Paris’s 9th Arrondissement—between Quartier Pigalle and Opera—if not for the passing of its owner, Solange Beaugiron, granddaughter of Marthe de Florian, at the age of 91 in 2010.
The Paris apartment was locked tight for 70 years until Beaugiron’s executors went to evaluate the contents at the property.
Once inside the foyer, they found a couple of Disney toys made before the war and a stuffed ostrich that was draped with an embroidered red shawl.
Though everything was caked in dust, nevertheless, the apartment was an astonishing time capsule, furnished with classic 19th-century furniture, low-hanging chandeliers, gold curtains, and a glamorous dressing table that was lined up with hairbrushes and vintage glass bottles of perfume.
Other than the sumptuous interior, they also discovered a trove of beautiful antiques and artwork.
What captured the specialists’ attention most was an impressive painting featuring a stunning woman. The woman, wearing a revealing pink muslin evening dress, was believed to be Marthe de Florian, a famous actress and socialite known to have many renowned admirers, including Georges Clemenceau, 72nd prime minister of France, and Paul Deschanel, the 11th president of France.
Old love letters tied with different colored ribbons were found in the drawers of a desk. One note was from 19th-century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini, alluding to the likelihood the painting was his.
“We had the link and I was sure at that moment that it was indeed a very fine Boldini,” Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery, said.
The painting was exquisite and much admired by anyone who saw it.
“The artist had managed to restore her beauty by providing the perfect features of his profile. I admired the hair held back to clear her neck; romantic bits with English on his forehead; deep neckline adorned with a shimmering pearl necklace; her bare shoulder and hands out a rustle of pink silk,” wrote art expert Marc Ottavi.
A biographical reference to the work was finally found in a book by Boldini’s widow stating the artist painted his muse, Marthe de Florian, in 1898.
This masterpiece was later sold to a passionate collector at an auction for $3.4 million—a record for the artist.
The apartment and its contents were truly an incredible find. Stepping into it felt like one was frozen in time with furniture, books, and letters from the turn of the century. It’s no wonder the room was dubbed “the Parisian castle of Sleeping Beauty.”
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