“During the reign of Louis XVI, the Duchesse de Mouchy, lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, occupied this bed …”
“During the reign of Louis XVI, the Duchesse de Mouchy, lady-in-waiting to Marie Antoinette, occupied this bed …”
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 lays a treasure trove of turn-of-the-century objects including a painting by the 19th century Italian artist Giovanni Boldini.
When madame de Florian died recently, experts were tasked with drawing up an inventory of her possessions and homed in on the flat near the Trinité church in Paris between the Pigalle red light district and Opera.
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.
“There was a smell of old dust,” said Olivier Choppin-Janvry, who made the discovery. Walking under high wooden ceilings, past an old wood stove and stone sink in the kitchen, he spotted a stuffed ostrich and a Mickey Mouse toy dating from before the war, as well as an exquisite dressing table.
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.
The painting was by Boldini and the subject a beautiful Frenchwoman who turned out to be the artist’s former muse and whose granddaughter had left the flat uninhabited for more than half a century.
The muse was Marthe de Florian, an actress with a long list of ardent admirers, whose fervent love letters she kept wrapped neatly in ribbon and were still on the premises. Among the admirers was the 72nd prime minister of France, George Clemenceau, but also Boldini.
The expert 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.
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”.
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 Florian was 24.
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.
“It was a magic moment. One could see that the buyer loved the painting; he paid the price of passion,” said Mr Ottavi.
Lavender Doors, Dijon, France.
Navy blue door.
Rue de Rivoli.
Tiel blue door.
30, Rue de l’Echiquier.
Behind the façade of the art – deco – influenced exterior, lies a perfectly preserved and ultra – luxurious piece of Chanel history. The apartment, situated above the flagship boutique on Rue Cambon, remains exactly as Chanel left it. Today, just a restricted number of VIP with a badge are permitted into the building.
In contrast to Coco’s personal space, the staircase had a heavy art- deco influence. It is still covered with cream carpet, while the walls are lined with panels of mirrors. During the fashion shows, which took place downstairs, Gabrielle Chanel would sit on the staircase. Thanks to the mirrors she could see everything taking place, but no one could see her. She wanted to know the immediate reaction, if the journalists and clients were pleased with the collection.
She had this chandelier custom made. Can you see the iconic 5’s?
The clear table in the picture below was the first piece of merchandising furniture for Chanel. Coco asked the designer to do something very clean and very simple to have all the costume jewelry, make-up, skincare, and perfume merchandised. It was to enhance the beauty of the product. At the time, it was very clever as she was one of the first to do this.
“An Interior is the natural projection of the soul and Balzac was right to give as much importance to it, as to the way people dress…”, she once confided to biographer Paul Morland.
The entrance to Coco’s apartment where an original work-chair is still where she left it. Lower chairs were used for fittings as it was easier to sew and work with the fabric closer to the ground.
The octagonal shape of the mirror on the wall was the inspiration for the cap of CHANEL No.5. It is also the same shape of the iconic Place Vendome, which Coco could see out of her window of her residence at the Ritz Hotel.
The gold boxes on the coffee table were a gift from the Duke of Westminster.
A small herd of carved wood deer silently occupy the space...
The scale of the chandeliers, the coromandel screens, the mirrors: all reflected her intrepid personality. Coco had an eclectic mix of decor. French classic furniture, antiquities, Italian influences and Japanese deers. At the time, it was really exceptional to mix Orient and Occident- when East meets West.
Above and below: a Greek statue over the fireplace’s mantle.
The desk where Coco sketched her creations on paper.
All of Coco’s books have deep red tones. Just like the iconic lipstick and the inside lining of the bags she created.
Coco was very superstitious. Elements of this can be seen all over her apartment with sculptures of different animals and religious artifacts. She wanted to feel protected at all times. Chanel was a Leo and she incorporated its symbol, the Lion, into her personal space.
The pig keeper of silver and gems may have been found by Chanel at a flea market.
Chanel considered wheat to be her lucky charm…..here it glints in gold on the book bindings of the Old Testament.
This tiny birdcage was a present from a retiring employee and was the inspiration for the 1992 Coco perfume campaign, starring Vanessa Paradis, that was set in the Chanel apartment on Rue Cambon.
The ornate Chinese screens and wall panels feature coromandel birds and camelia flowers, which came to be a signature for the Chanel fashion house that continues to be used to this day. It symbolized purity and longevity in Asia and was very prevalent in her designs.
The Salon where Chanel entertained her guests including Elizabeth Taylor, Pablo Picasso, Igor Stravinsky and Salvador Dali. She is said to have hated doors and obscured them with Chinese screens.
Chanel herself designed this long, sensuous sofa in the salon at 31 Rue Cambon. It was important to her that it was comfortable, and she took the unusual decision to have it made in suede, rather than silk or velvet. It was very cutting edge. An entire wall of leather bound books. Beige, brown and fawn colors are accented with black and crystal.
The open mouth of a frog brings love, luck, money and health. If you look closely you can see a crystal placed in its mouth. Once, while Givenchy sat in the drawing room, a piece of crystal fell from the chandelier. He placed it in the mouth of the frog and it was never removed.
Coco was photographed many times in this iconic white chair.
A French trumeau over the fireplace, flanked on either side by Spanish vestry mirrors, crystal laden table lamps, and large rock crystal chandelier bejewel the main salon…
Mirrors were designed to be octagonal in shape. The top of the two tables below are black lacquer but were originally marble. Gabrielle Chanel wanted to take off the marble and have the black lacquer. It may remind you of CHANEL’s make-up-black lacquer with the logo on top.
This hand sculpture was made for Chanel by the Italian artist Alberto Giacometti.
Coco’s trademark black-and-white allover aesthetic.
Angel of 57, rue de Turbigo. The rue de Turbigo is part of the St Martin district, not an aristocratic area like its neighbor le Marais. The smiling, colossal stone angel seems to stand guard over the human comedy unfolding at its feet. Wings unfurled with a span rivaling that of the Louvre’s Winged Victory, its feathers brush against the fourth floor apartments’ windows of this building designed by architect Eugene Demangeat in 1860. Demangeat was a key player in the building boom of Paris, orchestrated by Baron Haussmann under the aegis of Napoleon III. The goal was to aerate, beautify and unify the capital city, until then a medieval maze of dark, insalubrious, winding streets. Next year, the angel of the rue Turbigo celebrates its 154th year, a serenely vigilant guardian angel radiating happiness throughout the neighborhood.
From Promenade Plantee.
La France Journal du Soir.
Atlantes above the entrance of the 116, rue de Réaumur, 2nd arr. This building was built in 1898 by Albert Walwein . The statues of Atlantes are said “sheathed” (their lower part is melted in a pillar). Above the door, a relief with Diana and two Amours.
Along Rue Réaumur there are many interesting building façades. In 1897, a new planning regulation was put in place. This meant that roofs could be extended and bay windows could be added to the stone façades. Quite a few architects won a prize for these additions.
Caryatids around a window at the corner of the 101, rue de Réaumur and rue de Cléry, 2nd arr.
The enormous heads of the goddess Hathor in Rue du Caire. Back in 1798 the future emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was about to pop off on his Egyptian Campaign, so things middle eastern were somewhat in the air. The Passage du Caire was supposed to be like a nod to the great souk of Cairo, but in the end was criticised for not being souklike one little bit. The architect of the building in these pictures, constructed around 1828.
One of the many reasons that I love Paris is that I feel that there is something wonderful, and often unexpected, to discover around every corner. There are several whimsical examples of Parisian Art Nouveau architecture tucked away in quiet spots in the 7th arrondissement. Like the first time I turned a corner and stood face to face with Jules Lavirotte’s outrageous Art Nouveau masterpiece on 29, Avenue Rapp. Look carefully to discover the many whimsical details on this building – from the windows above the door that look like Martian’s eyes, to the bison heads which holding up balconies, lizard door handles, fox-headed fur collars, fantastical fish, wonderful curves and shapes, young women and men.
Lavirotte designed this wildly decorated facade in 1901 for his friend Alexandre Bigot. A frequent collaborator, Bigot was a talented ceramist and he gave Lavirotte complete freedom with the design for this building. Bigot created the ceramic details himself, working closely with Lavirotte to execute his outrageous and lavish designs, along with the sculptor Jean-Baptiste Larrivé. Read more about the buildings Lavirotte designed in the 7th arrondissement of Paris on Wikipedia.
39, rue Saint Sabin. The mansion, three levels plus attic above the cornice, was built in 1909 by company A. Chérioux according to plans by architect L. Delpoix and ornamented with statues and friezes made by the sculptor E. Chenevière.
The three central windows of the first and second stage are connected together by a balcony railing wrought iron. Windows are surmounted first by a triangular pediment carved. They are framed by a square column supporting grooved on each side at the second floor, a sculpture of a woman who carried the garland of flowers located above windows.