During WWII, Parisian socialite Madame de Florian abandoned her luxury apartment after she fled the city. She never returned to Paris but continued to pay rent until she died in 2010, at the age of 91. This is what was found when the apartment was finally opened after 70 years.
Located on Paris' Right Bank near Opéra Garnier, it's since become a decadent and gorgeous time capsule.
Mme. de Florian had feared Hitler's inevitable invasion of France so she fled the city in 1940, and stayed on the Riviera, and refused to return to the city. Her apartment remained empty, abandoned since the day she left it, in quite a bit of a hurry. It wasn't unheard of for Parisians to never return to their city pieds–à–terre. But, this is the first one that's been discovered after being abandoned for so long, and in such incredible condition.
The flat was in the 9th, near the Paris Opéra, it was inherited from her grandmother ("a famous actress of the Belle Epoque era"). She had maintained the flat by paying apartment fees until she died, and when her executors discovered it they were shocked at what they found. Because it was abandoned it retained its "Pre-War" features.
The Daily Beast reports that the story gets even juicier:
The biggest surprise was a never-before-seen painting by famed 19th-century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. The subject of the portrait, a woman perched on a lounge and shrouded in a pink satin evening gown, was 24-year-old Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner’s grandmother who was a Belle Epoque socialite, theater actress, and Boldini’s muse.
“But, somewhere in the 9th arrondissement, a dusty flat missing a fine Boldini painting may still remain frozen-in-time.”
Born in 1864, de Florian was a certain breed of courtesan known as les demimondaines, who were famous for their lavish lifestyles, partying ways, and strings of high-profile suitors. The mysterious woman sparked furious speculation online, as forums of fascinated readers dug through French genealogical records to uncover a little more about the family. These amateur historians surfaced old newspaper clippings and birth records showing de Florian's real name was Mathilde Heloise Beaugiron, and she worked as a seamstress and bore two children before turning to acting and the more lucrative “society girl” trade.
When the apartment’s contents were discovered, Boldini’s painting was without a signature and no records of the work were found in reference books to prove it was his. But art experts managed to locate a mention of the work in a memoir by the famed painter’s widow, and they dated the painting to 1898. Their suspicions were confirmed by a stack of love letters found in the apartment that were wrapped in different colored ribbons and scrawled in the hand of, among others, Boldini and 72nd Prime Minister George Clemenceau.
The painting went up for auction with an asking price of €253,000, and sold for €2.1 million after 10 bidders waged a war for the piece. “It was a magic moment. One could see that the buyer loved the painting; he paid the price of passion,” said Marc Ottav, the art specialist consulted about the painting’s authenticity. It was the highest price ever paid for one of Boldini’s works.
Imagine the incredible sensation of walking into this Belle Epoque time capsule:
One investigator described his initial visit to the apartment as “stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty,” noting that, apart from the piles of dust and peeling wallpaper, the flat was like a time capsule from the year 1900, when it had been decorated to the luxuriously expensive taste of Mme. de Florian’s grandmother, Marthe de Florian. In the luxurious but faded space, agents found piles of books, furniture, porcelain, gowns, jewelry, and even an old Mickey Mouse toy. In fact the centerpiece of the apartment was a portrait of Marthe de Florian by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini, which recently sold for $3 million at auction.