An intriguing story from France
Mathilde Beaugiron was born in Paris in 1864 and became a little known demi-mondaine (courtesan) who had many famous lovers during La Belle Epoque including French Prime Ministers, Presidents, bankers and artists.
She changed her name to Marthe, gave birth to at least two bastard sons when she was 18 and 19 and lived in the red light district of Pigalle in a luxurious apartment. One of her lovers, the artist Giovanni Baldini painted her portrait in 1888 when she was 24.
Marthe’s granddaughter Madame de Florian who was born in 1919 inherited her glamorous Belle Epoque apartment in Pigalle and lived there until the World War Two started.
Terrified of the Nazi’s Marthe’s granddaughter fled Paris before the German occupation in 1940 and settled in the South of France, never to return to Paris.
In 2010 when she died at the grand age of 91 years old, her heirs unlocked the apartment fro the first time in 70 years.
Imagine the delight of seeing amongst the dust and creaking boards, a time-snap of the Belle Epoque era complete with love letters, a stuffed emus, gilt frames and mirrors, Aubusson rugs, sheet music, lamps, crockery, beautiful furniture and peeling wallpaper.
Marthe’s beautiful Pink Lady portrait from 1888 was there too with his love letter tucked into the back of it.
At auction the painting was expected to fetch perhaps $500,000 and infact was sold for more than $3 million.
To see pictures of the apartment click here on Modern Met blog page