House tour: The secret Paris apartment of Madame de Florian

The story of Madame de Florian’s home seems almost too far-fetched to be true, but the discovery of her glamorous Paris apartment – which has been locked behind closed doors since 1942 – is evidence of a life and style too fabulous to be fiction.

Paris apartment of Madame de Florian time capsule

Abandoned Paris apartment of Madame de Florian

taxidermy in Paris apartment of Madame de Florian

Paris apartment of socialite Madame de Florian 1942

Portrait of Marthe de Florian by Giovanni Boldini

{Getty images via AnOther}

The apartment belonged to Marthe de Florian, an actress and socialite who lived in swirl of fine gowns and love affairs with important men, from Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau to painter Giovanni Boldini, who captured her beauty in the radiant portrait above. She lived in this decadent apartment on the Right Bank with her own portrait in pride of place until she died, leaving her home to her grandaughter, Madame de Florian.

In 1942 at the age of 23, Madame de Florian was forced to flee Paris as the German troops drew ever nearer. She locked the doors and moved to the South of France, never to return, although she continued to pay her service charges until her death at the age of 91. It wasn’t until 2010 that auctioneers opened the doors to the apartment once again and discovered the incredible time capsule that lay gathering dust inside.

Amongst the elegant carved furniture, moth-eaten silks and dulled cut crystal the auctioneer came across Marthe de Florian’s portrait alongside ribbon-bound love letters that confirmed the identity of both the artist and subject, who was only 24 when it was painted. The painting recently sold for an astonishing €2.1 million… the apartment however remains in the hands of the de Florian estate, back behind closed doors and just as it was the day Madame de Florian left.

Ps – If this apartment captivates you too, you must visit Dennis Severs’ House in Folgate Street. It’s the closest you’ll get to the magic of an abandoned home.

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Comments

  1. Susana Melo says

    A great historical fiction book with this apartment central to the story is Michelle Gable’s “A Paris Apartment”.

  2. Russell says

    The comment above stating that the apartment belonged to Marthe de Florian until the time of her death in 2010 is wrong. Marthe de Florian was born in 1864 and died in 1939. At the time of her death her second son, Henri, was living with his mother in the apartment. It was Henri’s daughter, Solange Beaugiron, who inherited the apartment. It was Solange who fled Paris in 1942, and who died in 2010.

    Marthe was a high class lady of the night, having French Prime Ministers and Presidents as her lovers, as well as the artist Giovanni Boldini (who painted a portrait of her which was found in the apartment in 2010 (it sold at auction for over 2 million euros). The timeframes do not fit in with the apartment being owned by Marthe, even though her life story probably makes for a more interesting tale to connect to the apartment.

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