Paris Time Capsule isn’t inspired by one true story- it’s inspired by three. Three stories that are inextricably linked to one fascinating apartment in the ninth arrondissement of Paris.
But let’s work backwards for a moment. Let’s start in 2010. In 2010, a woman died in the South of France. All we know is that her name was Madame de Florian. Madame de Florian escaped Paris on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Paris in June, 1940, and lived the rest of her life in the South of France. There is nothing unusual in that. In fact, there is nothing unusual about the fact that she probably didn’t talk about her life in Paris before 1940 much at all. But what is extraordinary, what is really extraordinary, is the legacy that Madame de Florian left in her will.
The executors of Madame de Florian’s estate were stunned to find that Madame de Florian owned an apartment in the ninth arrondissement – the old theatre district, not far from the Moulin Rouge on the edge of Montmartre, which was the heaving lifeblood of Paris’ late nineteenth century Belle Époque, home of circuses, theatre, pimps, and prostitutes, more than a curious blend – and this apartment had been left as it was, untouched since 1940.
But that was not all. One of the executors described his experience of discovering Madame de Florian’s apartment as ‘like walking into Sleeping Beauty’s apartment,’ because the entire place was furnished in the style of the Belle Époque- not from the 1940s, then, but from the 1890s- so the mystery deepened. Now, there were two questions- why did Madame de Florian never return to her apartment in Paris, and who did this fabulous place belong to?
Because the apartment that had been discovered, untouched, was a dust-caked, moth eaten perfect replica of late nineteenth century courtesan’s home. Here was a stunning dressing table, resplendent with old glass bottles of some ancient perfume, an ostrich, of all things, draped, valiantly in a glamorous shawl. Paintings, jewels, a four poster bed, wallpaper hanging in decrepit strips from the sagging ceilings. Who had lived here?
But then, things became even more interesting. Art-world stopping, in fact. The executors discovered a painting on the wall in the bedroom. And after much sleuthing, the unsigned portrait was discovered to be an original painting by the leading portrait artist during the Belle Époque, of Marthe de Florian, one of a handful of leading courtesans during the 1890s in Paris. And the apartment, it seemed, belonged to her.
Love letters, stacked and tied with silk ribbons proved to be instrumental in establishing that the portrait was an original Boldini.