Imagine stepping into a place that's been locked up for decades and finding it adorned with period furniture and artifacts - all completely untouched. This is precisely what happened recently in Paris when an auctioneer walked into an apartment that had been abandoned for an unbelievable 70+ years. What he found was a treasure from the past, complete with well-preserved paintings and precious ornaments that tell a long, curious story of history and romance.
The sumptuous apartment belonged to a certain Madame Marthe de Florian, a French socialite, and actress who was born in 1864. She passed away in this very apartment in 1939. Her daughter, Solange Beaugiron (1919-2010), inherited the property but fled to the south of France in fear of Nazi persecution when World War II broke out, never to return. She left this gem behind, and it remained undiscovered until her death just a few years ago.
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The untouched objects found in the apartment are all highly representative of early 20th Century Parisian life, making this time capsule all the more special to walk into. They include paintings by the 19th-Century Italian painter Giovanni Boldini, as well as period-correct furniture. Everything was found exactly as it had been left by the apartment's last inhabitant.
Marthe de Florian is known to have had several lovers, who were quite famous, during her lifetime. These include Paul Deschanel, who was the 11th President of France, Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau, who was the 68th Prime Minister of France, as well as the aforementioned artist, Giovanni Boldini.
Among the objects found were taxidermy pieces, such as this stuffed ostrich. This, as well as several other opulent objects that were discovered, is a clear sign of wealth.
It was discovered that Solange Beaugiron, Marthe de Florian's daughter, and the home's last known owner, was an aspiring playwright when she was a teenager. At age 17, she wrote her first manuscript, entitled Miss Mary. There are also individuals who believe that this woman could have been the writer Solange Bellegarde. However, this hasn't yet been proven to be true.
This portrait is one of the works by Giovanni Boldini that were discovered in the apartment. It was presumably painted in 1898, and is of Marthe de Florian, who served as his muse, posing in a beautiful pink muslin evening dress. She would have been around 24 years old at the time. A love letter to her from Boldini, also found in the apartment, gave sound indications of the painting's provenance. After its discovery, this painting was sold for €2.1 million - a world record figure for a painting by the artist.
Undoubtedly, the other objects discovered in the apartment are worth countless thousands. They are a valuable testament to how life in Paris was at the time, offering a unique stepping stone into history. For the discoverers, this was an impeccable treasure trove representative of a bygone era, giving rise to a wealth of intriguing stories.
The grand discovery inspired many individuals, including the authoress Michelle Gable, who wrote a book about it. The book is entitled "A Paris Apartment", and it recounts the true story based on Boldini's intriguing portrait of Marthe de Florian.
The findings have also raised numerous questions, such as the baffling reason why the last owner decided never to return to this charming apartment, filled with a copious amount of precious furnishings and works of art. The answer will remain a mystery, but although it may be the most curious, it's surely not the last one yet to be resolved.
Cover image courtesy of depositphotos