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The time-capsule apartment

Updated: Aug 27, 2018

I well remember the first time I read about this story: I was sitting in a bar drinkig a delicious cup of cappuccino, with the Huffington Post homepage on my laptop's screen. Among the daily news, I found an article talking about this luxury Parisian apartment - in the Montmartre district - that had been left unoccupied for many years.

Nothing sensational, one might say. However, what made the news so rummy was the fact that when the apartment was re-opened - after almost 70 years! - it looked exactly like that day of 1942 when the tenant of the estate – Solange Beaugiron- left her home for South of France, in a attemp of escaping from WWII, leaving everything behind her.

After her departure, this lady never came back to Paris but kept on paying the rent to keep her downtown Parisian apartment - located in Square la Bruyère, 2 à Montmartre near the Opéra Garnier.

The apartment has thus remained completely closed for 68 long years and it’s only when Ms Beaugiron died in 2010 - at 91 - that somebody finally stepped in it after such a long time.

The re-opening of its door could be seen as an ordinary event, except for the unusual nature of its case. In fact, what Mr Oliver Choppin-Janvry - the bailiff in charge of the inspection - saw when entering into the apartment was rather surprising.

Inside of it, he found out that a little treasure was hidden in those rooms: he discovered a lot of original vintage stuff recalling other times, with the dust giving even more charm and value to the rooms. He also found a wide collection of porcelain objects decorating high wooden ceilings' rooms, Art Nouveau style furniture, mirrors with intricately decorated frames, valuable paintings, a stuffed ostrich, a Napoleon III style console, antique chandeliers and all those elements that could embellish to make a statement of a 20th century estate.

This sounded to me like a sort of a fairy tale, with my curiosity kept even more fed when I read about this sensational finding inside one of the rooms: a canvas of great value depicting a beautiful woman wearing a evening dress was detected inside the apartment that day ...

"There was an old smell of dust ... we walked under high wooden ceilings, going into the kitchen we noticed an old wood oven and a stone sink, a stuffed ostrich and then a pre-war Mickey Mouse puppet , an exquisite dresser ... but the heart gave a start when we found ourselves in front of a splendid canvas depicting a woman in a pink silk dress."

(Oliver Choppin-Janvry, the bailiff in charge of the inspection)

As a true focal point, the painting they found was an authentic one by painter Giovanni Boldini -worth 2 million euros! - and the lady in the pink silk dress, which he portrayed, was Madame de Florian, the aunt of Solange Beaugiron - the tenant of the apartment.

In 1872 the young Italian born artist, Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931), arrived in Paris and opened his own studio in Montmartre. He portrayed one of the most fascinating and famous women of the Parisian scene of the time Marthe de Florian (a.k.a. Mathilde Héloïse Beaugiron), who was an actress and socialite, a lover of worldly good life with a lot of wealthy admirers.

A piicture of Marthe de Florian (1864-1938)

The painting was not a commission by Marthe to the artist, it was rather a gift from the painter to his lover. Boldini represented her – who was 24 at the time - in the prime of her beauty, wrapped in a low-cut pink silk dress, sitting on the sofa in a very sensual pose, as if she knew she could have it all.

Portrait of Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini (1864 - 1939) Love letters, stacked and tied with silk ribbons proved to be instrumental in establishing that the portrait was an original Boldini.

Marthe took the painting into her magnificently furnished Parisian apartment, where she lived until the end of her days. She bequeathed it to her nephew Solange, who lived there until she decided to move to South France in 1942 and never got back in Paris.

Thus, when Mr Oliver Choppin-Janvry entered the apartment for the inspection, he found the location untouched as if time itself had stopped in the 1940s, as if those rooms were still waiting for their mistress ...

Despite the original concept of turning this 140 sq m downtown Paris apartment into a museum, it seems that some of the great-value objects which decorated this real time-capsule were auctioned and then lost forever.

Anyway, I am still wondering why did Solange Beaugiron (the nephew of Marthe de Florian) never return to Paris to recover the little treasure her auntie left to her but kept paying her rent without ever feeling the need to come back? Why did she never talk about it with her family?

Whatever reason, the mystery deepens …



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