A Time Capsule In Paris

decouvrez-lincroyable-appartement-parisien-de-madame-de-florian-laisse-inoccupe-pendant-70-ans2This story is three years old, but I just found out about it when a friend and neighbor sent me an article about it on Facebook.

I became fascinated!

Above is a photo of an apartment located in the 9th arrondissement in Paris that no one has been in for 68 years.  It remained just as it did back in 1942 when the owner, Madame de Florian, left it and never returned.  She was 23 years-old at the time.

In the photo above, you can see the thick layer of dust that has been accumulating over 68 years.  When the authorities first went in, there were cobwebs everywhere.    “There was a smell of old dust,” said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery.  This reminds me of Miss Havisham and her house in Great Expectations.

Madame de Florian was an actress and socialite who fled Paris in 1942 during the second world war.  She felt that she would be safer outside of Paris.  Madame de Florian never returned to her apartment, or Paris, yet she kept the apartment, and continued to pay the monthly “rental” fee until she passed away at age 91 in 2010.

decouvrez-lincroyable-appartement-parisien-de-madame-de-florian-laisse-inoccupe-pendant-70-ans1I would imagine that originally Madame de Florian intended to return to her apartment after the war.  She obviously built a more satisfying life for herself in the South of France.  She obviously did not feel the need, or desire to return to Paris.  Why didn’t she then give up the apartment and retrieve the family belongings, instead of keeping it all those years and paying the monthly “rental” fee?

I would absolutely LOVE to go inside this apartment and have a look around this extremely dusty, but gorgeous time capsule.

visitez-un-tresor-parisien-fige-dans-le-temps-depuis-1942-31The furniture alone are exquisite treasures.  I would love to have it all.


239446-original1-0k31yBehind a door and under thick layers of dust, several pieces or artwork were found.


Painting by Giovanni Boldini circa 1898

The above painting is that of Madame de Florian’s grandmother Marthe de Florian.  It was painted by Giovanni Boldini in 1898, when Marthe was 24 years-old.  The painting recently sold for €2.1 million.  Grandmother Marthe was an actress who had a long list of male admirers.  Marthe kept the love letters from her admirers, which were found in the apartment.  Her admirers included the married Giovanni Boldini and the 72nd Prime MInister of France, George Clemenceau.


Artist, Giovanni Boldini


Also among the finds in the apartment is a stuffed ostrich and vintage Mickey Mouse.  At the time, it was considered a sign of affluence to have taxidermy items such as the stuffed ostrich in one’s home.

I wish there were pictures of all the other rooms in this apartment.  The kitchen has a stone sink and wood stove that I would love to see.

It was Marthe de Florian who first owned the apartment and lived in it during the 1890’s.  Marthe left the apartment to her descendents who decided to keep it just the way Marthe had it.   Marthe’s granddaughter was the last person to live in the flat before she fled to the South of France.  Now just imagine that the door to this flat had not been opened in 68 years.  I would have loved to be one of the people to enter in there for the first time after all those years.

Paris-street-near-Trinity-ChurchAbove is a photo of what the apartment location looks like today.  (Photo Source)

The exact apartment building has not been released to the public, but we do know that it is in the 9th arrondissement, near the Trinité church in Paris between the Pigalle red light district and the Paris Opera house.  Below are archival photographs of Trinite” Church and the Paris Opera House.

Trinite Church

Early photo of Trinite Church, Paris


The Paris Opera House circa 1890-1900

The apartment remains as part of Madame de Florian’s estate.  There are no plans to sell it, and it is not open to the public for tours.  I could not find a single thing about the granddaughter, Madame de Florian.  Not even her first name.  I would like to know what she did with her life after leaving Paris.  Did she ever marry and have children?  Why is it that she never returned to Paris or the apartment, but continued to pay on it every month?

You can read the article that was shared with me on Facebook HERE.


  1. Mary Lewis Soileau says:

    I may have heard of this story several years ago. Perhaps I got sidetracked whilst browsing the web, meaning to read about this fabulous find. Alas! I’m finally seeing pics and reading about it. I once again discovered this story through Michelle’s blog and reading the book synopsis for A PARIS APARTMENT by Michelle Gable. I’m an antique collector. I can only imagine the lovelies discovered amongst an untouched apartment, with treasures from the late 1800’s. A fascinating story! I’m anxious to read Michelle’s fictional account of Marthe de Florian and, of course, A PARIS APARTMENT. Thank you for posting this story once again. The painting done by Boldini of Marthe is exquisite, yes! And like you, Xenia, I would’ve loved to see the rest of the home. The beautiful dining room!! Oh my! What wonderful pieces I see in the photos! It does remind me of a brighter version of Miss Havisham’s Satis House. I can imagine that this apt. was stunning in 1942.

    • Xenia says:

      Hello Mary,

      You managed to get me all excited about this blog post again. When I first read about and saw the photos I was nearly obsessed with this AMAZING find.

      I purchased Michelle Gable’s book when it first cane out, but I was so busy studying for school that I had no time for pleasure reading. I graduated 3 weeks ago, so I am catching up on reading all the fun books I have piled up.

  2. Michelle Gable says:

    Wonderful article and pictures! As someone above mentioned, I do indeed have a novel coming out about the apartment in April with St. Martin’s Press. Like you, when I read the original article back in 2010, I was fascinated and inspired by the images and the facts behind them. Who would shutter an apartment for 70 years? One in Paris? With endless treasurers behind its doors? My book is fiction but based around this story. The modern-day protagonist is a Sotheby’s furniture expert (just as you said – what must it have been like to be one of the first to enter?) and I include “diaries” (fictionalized!) from Marthe de Florian, the diaries themselves inspired by the journals of another famous courtesan of the era. In any case, I wholeheartedly agree with your reaction to and assessment of the find! 🙂

    • Xenia says:

      Thank you for stopping by Michelle. Congratulations on your upcoming book! I am very happy and excited for you. I hope that The Paris Apartment sells in the millions.

      I wonder if there are photos of the apartment when it was first entered with all the cobwebs everywhere. In my own house, I have to clear away cobwebs from the ceilings at least once a year, so I can imagine what Madame de Florian’s apartment must have looked like after 70 years.

      This is all so exciting, and I bet that interest in this story won’t die down anytime soon.

    • Xenia says:

      I love everything in the apartment that you can see in the pictures. I especially would love to have the furniture. They can have the stuffed ostrich. It would creep me out having something like that in my space.

  3. Trudy says:

    That’s fascinating. It’s like a smaller version of finding King Tut’s tomb untouched. Gorgeous place. So curious she never returned or dealt with the contents of that place. It would make a compelling novel to fabricate the backstory to this.

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