The Door was Locked for 70 Years: You Will Be Amazed at Treasures and Mysteries Found Inside
The time: 1939, the beginning of World War II.
The place: an elegant Parisian apartment rented by a young 23 year old, Madame de Florian.
Fast forward to the 21st Century: auctioneers are called to check on this apartment after the death of Madame de Florian at the age of 91 who had locked the doors almost 70 years earlier, never to return.
Exactly what happened is not known, but given these facts and what follows, there is much that can be presumed.
Upon walking into the apartment, covered with 70 years of dust, one can imagine the anguish de Florian felt as she hastily began to pack.
Much of her art collection, dating from the early 1900s was removed from the walls. It seemed she hoped to take the pieces with her. Why did she end up leaving them behind? Were the Nazi soldiers approaching more quickly than she anticipated?
She quickly locked up, leaving a treasure trove of paintings behind as she fled to the free zone in the south.
Clearly she intended to return one day. She continued to pay rent on the lavish apartment. But she never informed her heirs of its existence. Upon her death in 2010 they learned the secret. It was then that Olivier Choppin-Janvry was hired to create an inventory of the contents.
What they discovered upon opening the locked door blew their minds: a time capsule of life in prewar Paris. Dishes and glassware left on shelves. Some art in preparation for transport. Much left exactly as it was when the resident left in such a hurry. Makeup, brushes, and perfume bottles remained on the intricately carved vanity.
There were many valuable works as well as art mysteries found inside…
What surprised and intrigued the auctioneer and his staff the most was a striking portrait of a beautiful young woman dressed in a pink evening gown.
This painting was not in any list of exhibited paintings. At first the experts could find no record of its existent. Who was the beautiful woman? And who painted such a glorious portrait of her? And how did it come to be in Madame de Florian’s apartment?
Love letters left behind turned out to be the needed clue.
The artist turned out to be none other than the Italian painter Giovanni Boldini. The subject of the painting turned out to be Madame de Florian’s grandmother.
Marthe de Florian was a well-known Parisian actress, living a very lavish lifestyle as a “high-society” girl in the 1880’s. A collection of love letters, tied with various colored ribbons, was found in the apartment and evidence of her many famous suitors, including several Prime Ministers and Presidents of France.
Besides Marthe being the subject of Giovanni’s painting, one of the love letters provided evidence that she was also the subject of his affection. This provocative work of art was painted in 1888, when Marthe was 24. After its discovery in 2010, it was auctioned for $3.4 million – the most valuable painting of any of Giovanni’s works.
Read more about this fascinating story from FaithTap
Photo of the inside of the apartment courtesy of 1909ventilo.me
Painting of Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini, photo courtesy of thiswritelife.wordpress.com
Image of locked door via galleryhip.com