At 23 years of age, Madame de Florian fled the city of Paris away from the threat of German invaders. It was 1942, and the second world war was only halfway fought. While she continued to pay for the apartment that she had inherited from her grandmother, she would never see it again before her death in 2010.
Her family discovered that she had been paying for the rent of this mysterious apartment for nearly 70 years, and sent out a team of experts and an auctioneer to inventory the contents. The team was stunned when they entered the building. Thick layers of dust covered everything, but the apartment had sat untouched, exactly as Madame de Florian had left it in 1942.
A dressing table full of brushes, creams, ribbons and books sat proudly in one corner, and an expensive taxidermy ostrich stood against a wall, draped with a large shawl. Signs of wealth and popularity were everywhere, from the many newspaper clippings of the young socialite to the golden curtains and low-hanging chandelier.A shelf of books and love-letters alike was haphazardly shoved into a corner, and a large mirror reflected the room with aged grace. Multiple rugs covered the floor, faded from years of disuse. The most amazing (and lucrative) discovery was a painting of Marthe de Florian, her grandmother, posing in a pink satin gown. She had been a theater actress, a socialite, and it turns out, Giovanni Boldini’s muse. Boldini was an Italian artist, and the portrait had never been seen before. After the discovery of amorous letters between the two, the painting was authenticated and went on to sell at auction for €2.1 million.
A lavish dining room was cluttered with paintings and trinkets, untouched and disheveled from the hasty retreat.
The discovery of the apartment has even inspired the foundation for a novel. The mystery and intrigue around one of Paris’ most impressive socialite doesn’t stop there. The family has declined to give out the location of the apartment, or their family member’s real names. We will just have to be satisfied with these rare pictures of a time capsule sealed away and covered in dust.
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