the time that time stood still


hello gang, how are you this afternoon? it’s beyond dreary here, it’s practically a monsoon! i kind of like the change of weather though, it’s a chance to nest and have an excuse not to run around doing errands.  i took this afternoon to play around a little on the net. i wrote about a very romantic story in 2010 and it’s starting to circulate again without much new news. i dug a bit to try to conjure up what may have caused the stir and found a couple of tidbits to add to the same pics that we’ve seen over the past few years. maybe i’m projecting but it’s kind of fun to speculate about what happened.


you may remember the seductive madame de florian, an actress and sort of demimondaine, or upscale courtesan of her day. (it was a somewhat respectable life in the 1800s despite what we imagine their prudish victorian ways to have been). she sounds like quite the socialite and party girl as she lived in the 9e which is close to the cabarets and red light district.  madame was quite the ‘it girl’ and was painted by one of the great artists of the day, giovanni boldini. when her apartment was unlocked a couple of years ago, it was discovered to be just as she left it one day and it’s been the same ever since.

Picture 94


gynneth even paid tribute to her in a fashion shoot.

the story goes:

In 1942, a young Parisian woman fearing Nazi persecution fled to Southern France, leaving behind a lavish apartment in Paris that she would never return to. 70 years later, its hidden trove of artwork has finally been exposed for the first time.

The owner of the apartment died three years ago at the age of 91, which is when the owner’s executor sent a team to investigate the apartment she left behind. They found a wonderfully-preserved and sumptuous Parisian apartment filled with beautiful antiques and artwork.

One piece, however, stood out from the rest of the artistic and historic relics – 19th-century Italian painter Giovanni Boldini’s portrait of his muse, Marthe de Florian. In the painting, this famous Parisian socialite and actress is depicted wearing a beautiful and revealing pink muslin dress. The painting was painted in 1888, when de Florian was just 24 years old. The painting itself has been valued at roughly $3.4 million.

In an interesting twist befitting of such a discovery, it turns out that the apartment’s late owner was none other than Marthe de Florian’s granddaughter. It is by the love notes and letters between de Florian and Boldini found at the apartment that the woman in the painting was identified.

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anyway she and the artist may have had a quite a few rendevous calls (possibly there) where she was captured in all her turn of the century glory at 24 years old.


he must have been quite the player; dapper, talented, charismatic…everyone who was anyone wanted her portrait painted by none other.


Giovanni Boldini (1842–1932)

he even painted himself as quite the gent! they did find a love letter or two from him to her. i can’t help but imagine their lives at the time, the story does stir the imagination. maybe a typical day was sort like this for the few months he painted her:

2c864a70dd12057fbd120f893ebccf63 (a contemporary of his was john singer sargent, shot here in his studio, Paris in the 1800s), as i said i’m projecting and it’s just my imagination running around!


i came across some great images when surfing about it. snippets of daily life at the time.


the subjects of the pictures, paintings and etchings are so perfectly fitted to a paris we all seem to romanticize. their demeanor, clothing, accessories and even their poses.


such a life of celebration, beauty, creativity and joie de vivre at the time!



for some, anyway!



there was dancing in the streets for god’s sake!


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what would make her leave never to return? it’s quite the mystery. well these are the few photos that have been circulating for a couple years of her apartment.
Madame de Florian

i did find this one new one:


it all seems so lovely but there is some mystery and underlying strangeness in the story. many people are speculating about it. i wonder if we’ll ever really know.


google earth brings us round to today. below is her apartmetment building in paris!



and here is a discussion where they’re trying to solve it. let us know if you find out anything to add!

in the meantime, it’s that time again, another giveaway! today’s comes from shop sucre who is offering a reader a box of their beautiful macaroons. if you have a weak spot for them, leave a comment and we’ll draw the winner on monday the 20th.


you can see the collection here: shopsucre-classic-macaron-collection and their king cakes to celebrate mardi gras.

wow, it’s evening, how did time pass so quick here when it stood still for so long just a moment ago? better get to stepping, i have a caller myself en route. have a cozy night full of intrigue and romance!

0 replies on “the time that time stood still

  • meterrilee

    Wow!!! I would love to win the macarons–real ones! I\’ve attempted to make them, but they are tricksy, for sure. What a lovely post this evening. A real mystery!

  • Connie*

    Oh how interesting! I find this whole period so romantic anyway..Edith Wharton, Henry James and John Singer Sargeant. I love that you\’re imaging a story to go with it all. As for the macarons, I was trying to avoid sugar but these are so pretty……

  • Sue

    I\’ve been watching Downton Abbey and drooling over their dresses, their homes, their being catered to by hand maidens. Perhaps some macaroons will make up for the life I was born too late and to the wrong family to have! Lovely post and now I\’m wondering about your tryst! X

  • Teddee Grace

    This story is so romantique! I went to the discussion and it only added to the mystery. I love those photos of her apartment. I don\’t suppose she ate a lot of macaroons, but count me in!

  • Margot Campbell

    Yes I did see the photos previously, but, you could send them once a month and I would still enjoy the beautty of it all. My friend once brought back french Macaroons for me and I fell in love!

    • Carter Kelly

      I am so thrilled that I \”fell into\” your Paris apartment a few months ago!! A true vicarious experience! Paris is now number 1 on my bucket list. (sigh……)
      Thank you for the offer of macarons. Shop Sucre has a great website, and their King Cakes look great, too.

  • Mimi CONNOR

    Why would I LOVE to have the boite of macaroons? I am embarrassed to tell you that I was completely unaware of these little lovelies during my TWO visits to France! And to this day I have never sampled one. They have been top priority for my next trip, whenever that will be, but I would be so grateful to goute these in the meantime! Mercier for this and all of your enticing posts. Mimi CONNOR

  • Diane Plauche

    Fascinating story. John Singer Sargent is one of my favorite artist and that time period in Paris also. Another wonderful and interesting story is the book Strapless by Deborah Davis. John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X.
    I would love to win the macaroons from Sucre, but since I live in New Orleans and visit Sucre on a regular basis (especially at this time of year as their King Cakes are the best in the city and they ship)! I will give up my entry!
    Thank you for a wonderful blog.

  • Fran Saval

    I have been following your blog since you first posted the original story years ago. have wanted to go to paris every since even just to go to the markets! would love to taste the macaroons! thanks for the offer. thanks so much for the blog.

  • Breann

    I would love these, they are apiece of art. The story is amazing, and beautiful.. and those pieces in the apartment. Are so fun…

  • Nancy Kim Li

    This is such a fascinating story, I wonder if she abandoned it because it brought her bad memories. Maybe a dispute between her and her lover/s. I also do wonder how her granddaughter never opened the place up, and why she continued to pay rent despite that no one lived there…mysteries indeed!

    The macaroons are very good, and that\’s no mystery just plain good 😀

  • Miss B

    WW2 scarred so many people and those experiencing the darker evils often never returned. As the apartment belonged to her grandmother I wonder why her mother had not inherited it. No doubt there is a greater story about love, pain, loss and suffering. Both my grandparents lived the war in London, my grandmother a Londoner pained by trauma of bombs and fear while my grandfather was a Canadian soldier popularized by the generous rations issue – very popular with the ladies and the joys of a foreign soldier\’s adventures. Fortunately they are both alive and well, and the mystery of that horrendous time continues to be locked firmly in their memories. Some things will always remain a mystery and the secrets are left for us to merely speculate. What a beautiful moment in history captured and shared for a mere moment. A real jewel – imagine being the modern owner next door and finally knowing the treasures through the walls. I feel honoured to be given a glimpse due to interested people and the internet. Especially while visiting NZ. What a fortunate age we live in. Plenty of things to contemplate while eating macaroons. Thanks for sharing this – a real privilege to be privy to. Such treasures!

  • Lisa

    The photos are lovely and I wish I had the opportunity to see the apartment in person. Thank you for the very intriguing story and for sharing it with the world. The macaroons look delicious!

  • Michelle in Nevada

    I love the story! If those walls could talk….

    I would love to win the macaroons, but if not I\’ll be in New Orleans in May and I\’ll be sure to visit the shop!

  • Pat Champagne

    I hope it\’s not too late to join your giveaway. I love your mystery ladies. I never heard this story before. How fascinating.

  • M. Priss

    Amazing story and pictures! I am in love with the Victorian era and all it\’s romance and this gorgeous apartment is exactly what I would love to live in. I wouldn\’t change a thing, except some light cleaning and repairs! Oh, why couldn\’t I have been born a hundred years earlier (or be next of kin to Madame De Florian!) 🙁 Those Macarons are too beautiful to eat, but I am sure I can \”force\” myself to do it 🙂

  • tania

    This story seems fascinating but the one thing that seems odd to me-(which no one who has written about it has pointed out) is that the timeline doesn\’t match up. How could Giovani have painted Florian in 1888 if she died in 2010 at the supposed age of 91? That would put Florian\’s birth date at 1919, so I\’m not sure how she could have been 24 in the 1800s? Giovani is also said to have died in 1931, which would have made him 99 and Florian 12 at the time of death. It\’s highly unlikely they had an affair if those dates are true. The math just doesn\’t add up. I think the historians have got this one wrong.

    • tania

      Ahhh! Now I understand my confusion. The late owner was de Florian\’s granddaughter. I thought initially they were the same person.

  • Karena Albert

    Claudia, when the Boldini was found it was so astonishing! It is reminiscent of Sargent\’s works of art, so mesmerizing! I think the story would make an amazing book and movie. If only someone would research the rest of the story, someone must know…

    Kansas City Culture

  • Sloopy Onnaharlee

    fyi- the Boldini painting of the seated man with mustache, cane, gloves and grey suit is Count Robert de Montesquiou, done in 1897. It is not a self portrait. And the painting of the man standing with cane is of John Singer Sargent, 1890.

  • Krol Jenny

    I heard the best macarons are to be gotten in Paris of course – however – the next best thing would be for me to receive them here in Brooklyn. It would go along with the whole romantic Paris experience!


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