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Art & Culture: What Lurks Beneath The Cobwebs ...

Oct 07 2010

Marthe de Florian:Giovanni Boldini

Marthe de Florian, actress and "demimondaine" or "cocotte" whose beauty once won her the ardent favours of George Clemenceau, 72nd prime minister of France and Italian artist Giovanni Boldini (1842-1931) amongst others, left her flat to the care of her family upon her death. Her granddaughter lived in the flat located near Paris' red light district of Pigalle until she fled for the South of France just before the outbreak of WWII never to return again.

Marthe de Florian's granddaughter recently passed away at the ripe old age of 91. Among the dusty, cobweb filled effects bequeathed to her by her grandmother, the executors of her estate found a stack of racy love letters bound neatly with a ribbon and a fine portrait painted by Boldini of a young 24 year old Marthe in full bloom. While the painting's value was estimated at €300 000, it fetched a cool €2.1 million at auction, a record for the artist whose famous patrons once included the Marchesa Luisa Cassati.

The moral of this story? Our grandparents may seem safe and boring now but they too were once young and possibly wilder than we ever imagined. Keep that in mind when dusting off those old effects in the attic. You never know what you might find.


The Luxe Chronicles

N.B. The account of this extraordinary story was first published in the French press and picked up by the U.K.'s Telegraph as well as The Huffington Post. The Telegraph's version is erroneous* in that it identifies the last occupant of the flat as Marthe de Florian herself. It was in fact her granddaughter whose recent passing led to the finding.

* The Telegraph has since corrected their account.


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Has anyone come across a photograph or more info on Martha de Florian? I agree, this has all the makings of a fabulous movie. I would love to know more about her. If only we could take a peek at those love letters!

Truly a relic from a bygone age..
a treasure..

Only a demimondaine would expose her shoulder so elegantly and beautifully.

Wonder what happened to Marthe de Florian's hubby & children?

Yes, I had the same reaction! I absolutely love this story. It would make a fantastic movie. Total romantic escapism.


I think this story is romantic and fabulous, a lovely and serendipitous gem in an otherwise depressing global news landscape. I've always been a fan of Boldini (and the era in which he lived). Just look at her! Coquine!

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The Luxe Chronicles is a collection of interviews, profiles and musings on various aspects of the luxury industry and occasionally, a rant on our celebrity obsessed culture and the dumbing down of our collective sense of style and esthetic.

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