Marthe de Florian’s abandoned apartment in Paris
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.
I learned of Marthe de Florian by reading a fictional novel, in part about her life and that of her grand daughter (fictional) during the War when the Nazis occupied France. She played a part in the novel, and I was intrigued by her character as depicted in the book. Then, at the end of the book, the author stated that she really existed, as she had described her in the book, that the apartment was intact with the painting, but the rest was all fiction. So, having been fascinated with her story and the description of her beautiful apartment in Paris filled with all her treasures, I googeled her and found many stories and articles about her and her grand daughter, Solange, who inherited the treasures and the apartment.
What a fascinating story, a glimmer of romance and intrigue in the middle of a terrible war… I truly wish I could see the bundles of love letters, each one tied in a different colored ribbon for each of the men who wrote them to her… sigh…. what a devil she must have been! I also wish I had known HER!
Just finished the book “Paris Time Capsule” and looked to find out all the information I could on the internet. The apartment was unbelievable filled with such beautiful things. Most enjoyable book .
I just finished the book “Paris Time Capsule “, and I too wanted to find out more about the apartment and family.
Just finished Paris Time Capsule
Really enjoyed it fascinating history !!
I have just finished Time Capsule. It is the best book I have read in years, I didn’t want it to end. To find that the apartment exists was just magic, and to study the photos just added to the whole experience. I have just bought the next book, and I am looking forward to it. Thank you.
Absolutely loved Paris Time Capsule! I didn’t want it to end! I can’t wait to read your other novels. Merci beaucoup x
Just finished the book. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
I, too just finished Paris Time Capsule and have started the next. Very much enjoyed the book and loved learning that there was some truth intermingled with the story. Looking forward to reading more.
Wonderful, thank you so much Traci. Yes, the truth behind the story is fascinating!
Have just finished House by the Lake, loved it and started Paris Balcony. Have Time Capsule to read next. Love that these are based on an intriguing look into history.
Thank you so much Nadine. Yes, I adore intriguing glimpses into history too!
I purchased Paris Time Capsule yesterday and finished it this morning. I loved the book! The author, Ella Carey, wrote that Marthe de Florian and the apartment were real. So, I HAD to do some research. LOL! What a Woman! 🙂
It would be interesting to read her love letters, but it would have been wonderful to have known Marthe de Florian.
Yes, Marthe was certainly a character, from what we know of her. The world in which she lived must have been so colourful- Montmartre at the turn of the century, with all the dance halls, cafes and clubs. It was the cusp of the modern world, and she was an extremely independent woman, but look at how she had to get there! Thank you, Laurie.