For 70 years the Parisian apartment had been left uninhabited, under lock and key, the rent faithfully paid but no hint of what was inside
Mrs de Florian, a ‘demimondaine’ never returned to her Paris flat after the war and died at the age of 91 in 2010.
Behind the door, under a thick layer of dusk lay a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.
Entering the untouched, cobweb-filled flat in Paris’ 9th arrondissement, one expert said it was like stumbling into the castle of Sleeping Beauty, where time had stood still since 1900.
But he said his heart missed a beat when he caught sight of a stunning tableau of a woman in a pink muslin evening dress.
When Mr Choppin-Janvry found a visiting card with a scribbled love note from Boldini, he knew he had struck gold. “We had the link and I was sure at that moment that it was indeed a very fine Boldini”.
The starting price for the painting was €300,000 but it rocketed as ten bidders vyed for the historic work. Finally it went under the hammer for €2.1 million, a world record for the artist.
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.