Masterpiece Hides in Parisian Flat for 70 Years

October 6, 2010

Fascinating story:

The woman who owned the flat had left for the south of France before the Second World War and never returned.

But when she died recently aged 91, experts were tasked with drawing up an inventory of her possessions […]

Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.

“There was a smell of old dust,” said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table.

But he said his heart missed a beat when he caught sight of a stunning tableau of a woman in a pink muslin evening dress.”

The woman who rented the apartment—who had left for the South of France and simply never returned—was one Marthe de Florian, the grandaughter of the woman in pink in the painting, and described as a demimondaine, which Merriam-Webster’s tells us is a “a woman supported by a wealthy lover.” The strange thing is that she had paid the rent all those years, while apparently never setting foot in the apartment and letting it go to the spiders. Bizarre.

And the painting? It was by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. It recently sold at auction for 2.1 million Euros ($2.9 million).

* The painting at the top left is not the one found in the apartment. It’s another Giovanni we found here.