Michelle Gable, Writer

Michelle Gable, Writer

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Marthe de Florian’s Paris


Marthe de Florian, as painted by Giovanni Boldini

Her flat was in the ninth arrondissement, on the Right Bank, near the Opéra Garnier, Folies-Bergères, and Pigalle red light district. This was your colorful Paris, your Paris of writers and artists and filmmakers. All the intellect and debauchery one might want.

Marthe de Florian lived during the Belle Époque (French for “beautiful era”), the so-called gilded age between the end of the Franco-Prussian War and the start of World War I.

It was a period of optimism, peace, technology, and, perhaps most importantly, the flourishing of literature, music, and the arts. Names such as Zola and Monet and Matisse and Picasso came to prominence as well as Giovanni Boldini, the most renowned portraitist in his day. You were not anyone unless Boldini painted you. He, the Master of Swish, lover of the woman he painted, the woman in pink: Marthe de Florian.Folies_Bergere

Though Marthe was what we’d consider a courtesan, the more accurate title was demimondaine, which translates to “half-world.” Other names included mesdemoiselles les cocottes and grandes horizontales. As one character says, “In Paris even the hookers are fancy.”


The painter Giovanni Boldini, “Master of Swish”

Marthe was no ordinary hooker, however. The era had its common prostitutes, the filles soumises (translation: submissive whores). Above them were les grisettes, usually working women, dressmakers and such, who used sex to supplement their incomes. Yet another level up were les lorettes. And then there were les demimondaines, like Marthe, a very singular breed.

Demimondaines were known for their extravagant lifestyles, provided of course by a string of wealthy and well-known lovers. Their clothing was envied by every woman in Paris. Even the wealthiest high society matrons could not compete sartorially (after all, they only had one “husband” supplying the goods; the demimondaines had many), though they tried. Demimondaines were also renowned for drinking, drug use, gambling, and excessive spending (particularly on clothes). Despite their status they remained forever on the outside, perhaps the “half-world” designation quite telling of their station.


Bazar de la Charité fire

The Gilded Age came to a grinding halt with WWI. Parisians were initially ecstatic when Germany declared war. They’d already invaded French territory twice and the declaration forced the Germans to take a formal stance of aggression. In addition, the French thought they’d finally avenge the Franco-Prussian War. The minute the news hit the wires people were dancing in the streets. Parties erupted in cafés, dance halls, and public squares. The crowds were enormous. People rode in carriages and atop white horses. They wept for joy, unaware the good times were over, the beautiful era now in their pasts.


Robert de Montesquiou, famous dandy

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Hi Can I ask where you got your sources. I’m doing a poem about her I need reference materials.


October 3, 2013

Hi I am writing a poem about her. How did you get your info. I need some as well. thanks


October 3, 2013

Oh gosh, from a variety of sources! But my book is fiction and there isn’t a lot known about her, so most of what’s in the book is fiction. What is known is that she was a courtesan and actress and Boldini and Clemenceau were two of her lovers. There isn’t a whole lot more known about her!

Michelle Gable

October 4, 2013

I have stopped by your website while looking for more information on Marthe de Florian’s apartment. One must wonder, since she lived in the 9th Arrondissement during that era, if Toulouse-Lautrec may have known and painted her as well. Thank you, and good luck on your book. BKB

Brian K. Barnes

December 31, 2013

I did wonder! I actually had a brief scene that included him in it but my copy editor had me take it out because we couldn’t confirm whether he was in Paris during that time. I’d like to think they would’ve known each other.

Michelle Gable

December 31, 2013

Concise, clear and interesting. Good images.

Aida Munoz

December 31, 2013

well your telling the same things, you need to answer questions such as did she marry did she have any children what was the grand daughter of marthe de florian first name.if your going to put storys on line for all to see get all the info on the person or persons you are writting about.


January 6, 2014

Back in 2010 when I first read about the amazing apartment find and the woman in the Boldini, I spent months researching the apartment and the woman behind it. Of course, I am a mere fiction writer 😉 and so the article served as a jumping-off point for my story. While my novel is based on facts, including the details behind this discovery, it is absolutely fiction. My book (which comes out in April with St. Martin’s Press) answers questions about the granddaughter and about why she locked up the flat for 70 years. But of course it is wholly of my imagination and not meant in any way to be a reference text. Not much is known about the woman herself and I’m surprised news of the apartment has suddenly been so popular in the last week given the article was first out (and I started the novel!) in 2010. But it is of course a haunting and beautiful discovery and, after all, what inspired my book. 🙂

Michelle Gable

January 6, 2014

I believe the reason this story has gained so much interest in the past few weeks is because of several recent articles that have been written this month this one for example….. http://www.viralnova.com/paris-apartment/
Whats interesting to me is that Madame de Florian died in 2010 and no further information about the granddaughter, Madame de Florian, or Marthe de Florian (AKA Matilda Baugiron) has been located.


January 10, 2014

I agree! I saw the article first in 2010, which is what sparked the novel. It’s fascinating how little information is known – and I am still trying to figure out why it went viral suddenly all these years later!

Michelle Gable

January 10, 2014

I love her portrait!!! The style of her home and furniture is exceptional. How I would love to see it all. I like that is a moment frozen in time!

Judy B

January 14, 2014

I’m happy to see that someone decided to write a book, or a novel about this story. There are all the ingredients to a fantastic and romantic journey through Paris, France’s history, etc..This peridod is fascintating (1860 to 1944) I’m french and i’ve been really curious to know more about this woman “Mathilde Heloise Beaugiron” and about her life, her family. So much questions ! It looks like she left this appartment she was quite old (around 75) at the begining of ww2. She had 2 sons before this, and one died really young. She had the second one when she was 20 (!) and his name was Henri. He died in 1966 (not so far from the “famous” appartment). So he surely was the owner after her death (around 1950 maybe ? nobody knows…) but didn’t lived in this place. More misterious, it looks like Henri didn’t have any children ! So who is this grand daughter ? A grand niece ? (it looks like “Mathilde Heloise Beaugiron” had sisters…). And why didn’t she sell this appartment ? or just lived in this appartment ? etc… I can’t wait to read your book (even if it’s a fiction !) and also i would like to have more answers regarding this story, for sure ;o)


January 24, 2014

3 notes

  1. So I Wrote a Book… | Michelle Gable, Writer reblogged this and added:

    […] Marthe de Florian’s Paris […]

  2. A Time Capsule In Paris | Collar City Brownstone reblogged this and added:

    […] 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 […]

  3. 1942 Abandoned Parisian Apartment Uncovered reblogged this and added:

    […] When discovered, the door to the apartment had not been opened in 68 years. How amazing it would have been to be one of the lucky few to enter for the first time in 68 years. A book based on Madame de Florian’s abandoned apartment has been written by author Michelle Gable, you can read about it on her website. […]

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