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Madame de Florian's Apartment: A Long, Lost Treasure Discovered

This story has been gleaning some recent attention, and since it deals with Paris and WWII, I thought I would jump in on the action. It has to do with a Parisian apartment on the Right Bank near the Opéra Garnier (9th Arrondissement) that was abandoned during the Nazi occupation when its owner, one Madame de Florian, fled to Vichy. If that doesn't have my name written all over it, well, I don't know what does!
Apparently, after the war she never returned but paid on the property until her death in 2010. When an auctioneer entered the apartment, he found a treasure trove. The apartment, although covered in a thick layer of dust, was like a piece of history frozen in time.
The de Florian Apartment - just as it was in 1942 
photo credit: 
© Getty Images
Gorgeous Vanity in Mme. de Florian's Apartment
photo credit: © Getty Images
Apparently, Madame Marthe de Florian left this lovely apartment to her granddaughter, also known as Madame de Florian. The granddaughter fled Paris during WWII and so the apartment lay dormant for over 70 years. When Madame de Florian passed away in 2010, events were set in motion that would ultimately lead to the apartment's discovery. 
Any apartment with a stuffed ostrich is cool in my book!
photo credit: © Getty Images
Gorgeous furniture - I love the embroidered chairs
photo credit: © Getty Images
If these walls could talk...
photo credit: © Getty Images
photo credit: © Getty Images
Born on 9 September 1864, the beautiful Madame Marthe de Florian (whose birth name was Mathilde Héloïse Beaugiron) originally owned the apartment and used it to entertain special male guests. During La Belle Époque, Marthe was a famed actress and demimondaine (courtesan) known for having a bevy of famous lovers that include Georges Clemenceau (before he was the 72nd Prime Minister of France), Pierre Waldeck-Rousseau (68th Prime Minister of France), Paul Deschanel (11th President of France), Gaston Doumergue (13th President of France), and the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. The UK's Daily Mail reports that there are even passionate love letters tied in silk ribbon within the apartment - oh how I would love to read them! 
Giovanni Boldini at Work
The painting below was discovered in the apartment and is an original work of renowned portraitist Giovanni Boldini. It is a portrait of Marthe de Florian at age 24. The painting was authenticated by a hand-written love note from Boldini (found in the apartment), as well as a passage in a book by Boldini's wife that referenced the painting. I cannot help but wonder what that passage said! Although he resided in Paris during the Impressionist Era (and one can certainly see the influence of the Impressionists in his painting) he was not an Impressionist. Boldini was a one of a kind, dubbed "the Master of Swish" because of the swishing brushstrokes that graced his paintings. He painted the rich and famous, making quite a respectable name for himself. 
Portrait of Madame de Florian by Giovanni Boldini, 1898 
photo credit: © Getty Images
But don't get any ideas about purchasing the newly discovered painting. Alas, someone beat you to it. And unless you have hit the lottery recently, you couldn't afford it anyway (it sold for 2.1 million making it the highest selling Boldini, well, ever). 
I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like to discover this apartment. As a historian, I would give anything to have the opportunity to explore its historical treasures. I have not uncovered any information that states what the apartment's future holds...only that it is still in the family estate. I sincerely hope they do not sell it off bit by bit. That would be a travesty.
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Armando Diaz said…
Hello . I have read this aticule in many blogs, but i love the way you wrote it. But if you could tell me , where did you get the source of who where there lovers. I`ll thing its to much...In the romantic side, this is a great story, but i thing is manufacture to sell the painy in an extravagant price.
wicklife said…
I would love to know and have a friend in paris...would you mind...I am a kenyan who works for the needy .....
Jennifer said…
For Armando: I got my info from The UK's Daily Telegraph (Henry Samuel), UK's Daily Mail (Leon Watson), and an article written by Marie-Noëlle Blessig (AFP - Agence France-Presse). The auctioneers who inspected the apartment found love letters and business cards from these men in her apartment, although to the best of my knowledge none have been published. During La Belle Époque, it was not uncommon for the affluent men of society to have mistresses in the form of courtesans. Being a courtesan was a somewhat respectable job as these women were educated and classy. Historically speaking, the French have been far more laid back about having lovers outside of marriage and even soliciting brothels than most of the rest of the world (especially America). It does not surprise me in the least that these society men/politicians would have solicited the services of Mme. de Florian. And as a courtesan, she would not have had anything less than wealthy, affluent men as clients. I am also not surprised that there is not a great deal written on Mme. de Florian and her lovers because part of the appeal of courtesans was their sense of discretion - although men keeping lovers was common, they did not flaunt it out of respect for their wives. Courtesans understood this and kept quiet, too. I think the painting sold not because of who she was or who she slept with so much as because of who the artist was. Making the connection between Mme. de Florian and Boldini helped to authenticate the painting and ensure it was not a forgery.
Nicole G said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole G said…
I found out about this through another blog, but it was limited in it's information and found yours. Thanks for sharing a deeper part of this incredible story.
Thomas said…
Nice story, I read about it some years ago in a Dutch newspaper. I am very curious about all the other things in the apartment. What happened with all those old items? Do you know what happened with the apartment? Are there any relatives who live in it know? Regards, Thomas
Osieurebelle said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Osieurebelle said…
Hola, gracias por invitarnos a este maravilloso viaje, leerte fue como estar ahí, mil gracias.
Anabela Jardim said…
Como professora de história eu também queria adentrar cada cantinho para saber como era a vida ali.
medeyax said…
Just cant wait for the "movie" !!!
D.Holbrook said…
I am extremely curious as to what Ms. deFlorian never returned to the apartment after the warhead over. Any clue?
D. Holbrook said…
Sorry for the typo. I meant to say 'I am extremely curious to know why the younger Ms. deFlorian failed to return to the apartment after the war was over'.
Misch said…
I was wondering who inherited, was there any family left ? It's so hard for me to imagine closing the door never to come back.


There must be family who know why she never returned after the war.

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