Une Capsule témoin

boldini21A few weeks ago, our daughter was home for a few weeks. Her timing couldn’t have been better. We’re trying to get our house ready to sell and there are 19 years of nooks and crannies to go through. Many of those nooks and crannies are full of precious treasures belonging to said daughter. The only way we could get her to part with toys, books, and games was to put them in the attic to be dealt with Marthe de Florianlater. Well, later had finally come. It was really sweet to see her go down memory lane. “Hello friends,” she said when she opened the bag with many of her favorite stuffed animals. You won’t be surprised that she decided to keep many of them, and that’s just fine with us. Memories are important.

Memories of a different kind were uncovered in a Paris apartment when the owner passed away at the age of 91. Marthe de Florian fled to the south of France when the Germans were poised to occupy Paris. She never came back, although the rent was faithfully paid each month, and the apartment in the 9th Arrondissement sat there like a time capsule for 70 years.

ostrichparisianflatValuation experts were sent in by the estate to take an inventory. One of the treasures was a stunning portrait of de Florian’s grandmother, also named Marthe, in a pink evening gown painted by Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. The painting sold at auction for ₤1.78 million ($2.8 million US or 2.1 million Euros). Actress and socialite de Florian kept the many love letters from her admirers tied with a ribbon. Among them were letters from artist Boldini as well as the Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

In the photo at left, you’ll see that the younger Marthe de Florian kept a few stuffed animals of her own. You’ll spot an old-style Mickey Mouse at the feet of an enormous stuffed ostrich.

The French word for a time capsule is une capsule témoin (oon kapsool taymoyn). Une témoin is a witness. It’s a lovely idea that this apartment was a witness to a by-gone era,  including valuable and glamorous paintings and stuffed animals. Thanks to my friend, historian Eliza McFeely, for sending me a clip about this story.

51hdPhkDgcL__SL75_240 Color-Paintings by Giovani Boldini

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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1 Response to Une Capsule témoin

  1. Keeping stuffed animals is a lovely way to stay connected to one’s childhood and its memories. I still have a few, and treasure them.

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