Sunday 12 May 2013


Firstly let me say there is a wonderful book in this story and I’d love to be the person to work on it, if not write it. This may be the account of a locked apartment full of dusty possessions but when the story behind them is told that is where their true value lies. There is definitely a film script in the bones of this story of a long lost masterpiece and a love story. Many of us dream of finding a long lost masterpiece but imagine opening the door of an apartment that nobody else had stepped in to in over seventy years. Here stacked and covered in dust were personal items, furniture and works of art, left as their owner fled Paris in fear of the approaching Nazi's. Among the dust covered belongings was a long lost work by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. The lady in the painting was a muse of the artist and the grandmother of the lady who left the apartment as a time capsule in 1941. For whatever reason she kept the apartment locked despite living in the South of France until her death in 2010 at 91.
The work of art that sold for £1.78million
The apartment was the home of Marthe de Florian who was the lady in the painting, at the time of the Second World War it was locked by her granddaughter and left untouched. It passed through various generations of the family who were aware of its existence and kept up the payments of taxes on the property but decided to leave it as it was. Items such as a dusty stuffed ostrich and a Mickey use toy dating from before the war, all add to this remarkable story. Eventually when the lady who had locked the apartment in 1941 died in 2010 her heirs decided the time had come to break the spell and disturb the slumber of the Paris home.
Boldini who created the masterpiece
There was no initial record of the painting of Marthe de Florian  but a calling card was found with a scribbled love note from Boldini. This led to a reference to the work in a book by the artist's widow, which said it, was painted in 1898 when Miss de Florian was 24. The starting price for the painting when it was placed in an auction seeking offers for around £253,000. However the historic work with the interesting provenance finally sold for £1.78million, a world record for the artist.
The dining room of the apartment which was left untouched in the 1940's
I feel when you see the pictures of the apartment in its original state that it was a shame that it was disturbed, broken up and items sold. I would prefer that it was cataloged and displayed in a museum something similar to the Francis Bacon exhibit in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. At least in that guise every one could experience a little of the magic of finding this sleeping beauty.

The poignant dusty possessions left behind

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