Sunday, October 10, 2010

Urban archeology

Mrs de Florian Parisian apartment, uncovered after 71 years of silence.
Look at that stuffed ostrich - it predates the 1900's

I just read about this apartment in Paris that had been left untouched for 71 years. The owner of the apartment Mrs de Florian fled Paris to the South of France at the beginning of World War II and never returned. It turns out the rent had been paid for all this time - so no one ever noticed it was uninhabited. The owner died recently and whilst settling her estate her lawyers entered her apartment for this first time in 71 years and found it full of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. Imagine that - a whole lifetime, all those years a lonely apartment in the middle of Paris, filled with this woman's life story - or at least the beginning of it. Now in death her home has life once more.

I think the magic of this story is the human element, that a young woman fled her home in times of war and never returned for reasons no one knows. The other side to the story surrounds the Boldini painting.

The painting was by Boldini and the subject a beautiful Frenchwoman who turned out to be the artist’s former muse and whose granddaughter it was who had left the flat uninhabited for more than half a century. The expert called in to do the inventory of the apartment had a hunch the painting was by Boldini, but could find no record of the painting. “No reference book dedicated to Boldini mentioned the tableau, which was never exhibited,” said Marc Ottavi, the art specialist he consulted about the work.

Then Ottavi found a visiting card with a scribbled love note from Boldini. “We had the link and I was sure at that moment that it was indeed a very fine Boldini”. He finally found a reference to the work in a book by the artist’s widow, which said it was painted in 1898 when Miss de Florians grandmother was 24. The painting recently went up for auction with a starting price of €300,000 but it rocketed as ten bidders vyed for the historic work. Finally it went under the hammer for €2.1 million. What an amazing story.

Artist Boldini whose painting recently sold for a record 2.1 million.

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