Major Mistress Mystery Missed: Madame Makes Masses Manic!
August 20, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

In 2010, the granddaughter of Marthe de Florian died at age 91. An apartment she had kept locked in Paris since 1940 was finally opened and among the items found in the apartment was a gorgeous painting of her grandmother by italian artist Giovanni Boldini. Every article about the discovery focuses on Marthe & Giovanni and the painting. My friends and I are far more interested in the granddaughter... Can you help us find details?

Every news article simply refers to the granddaughter as "Madame de Florian" and says she is the granddaughter of Marthe.

Details we have:

- She died in 2010 at 91, so she would have been born in 1919 or so.
- She left Paris in 1940, so she would have been around 21.
- Her grandmother was Marthe de Florian, a French actress who was the lover of Giovanni Boldini, one of the Prime Ministers of France, and several other society men.
- Marthe supposedly used the apartment to entertain suitors.
- Marthe's birth name was Matilda Baugiron.

Help us find details of the Granddaughter, especially her name!
posted by aristan to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hmm. Intriguing.

The reports in the French press are limited: nothing in Le Monde, Le Figaro, or (more 'nettily') rue89, for example. There's a story in Le Parisien but it basically gives the same information as the Telegraph report--they both draw on (to put it mildly) the AFP report. And none of them name the granddaughter.

The auctioneer, Olivier Choppin de Janvry, appears to have retired: his auction house became Villanfray and Associates as of last June, run by his former partner Karine Villanfray and new boy Paul-Marie Musnier. (These names, by the way, are entirely as aristocratic as you'd expect in the fine art auctioneering world.) They appear to have controlled the information quite closely, presumably at the request of the family, so I doubt they'd tell you anything if you contacted them and asked. France's restrictive privacy laws may also have played a role, especially if the family concerned are the illegitimate descendants of Georges Clemenceau (!).

You may have to use what you know to track down death and birth certificates for 'Marthe de Florian' and her descendants. Death certificates are fairly easy to obtain, though it would be much easier if you knew where Matilda Baugiron died; I don't know if they say anything about children, though. Birth certificates that show filiation are harder to obtain but should be accessible in this case, given that the person died a couple of years ago aged 91, which is long after the '75 years since last updated' rule ("les actes qui relèvent de la qualification d'archives publiques peuvent être communiqués à toute personne 75 ans après la dernière mise à jour"); this only becomes useful once you've already established whose birth certificate you're using, though.

You can find details of marriage certificates and how to access them on the same site, but er it sounds like knowing who Marthe de Florian was married to (if anyone) may not give you useful information about who the father of her child was.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 1:20 PM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The auctioneer that lapsangsouchong mentions as having retired was actually struck off for suspicions of receiving stolen goods. This fantastic story (that Boldini would never fetch the price it did without the amazing provenance) has good chances of having a grain of truth to it since:

- Marthe de Florian's real name was Mathilde Héloïse BEAUGIRON and her genealogy is here. She was born on September 9th 1864 in the 18th arrondissement in Paris and her profession in 1882 was seamstress.

- the Paris births registry is online. You can look up her birth certificate - it's registry #2744 in the book. Unfortunately it does not have any added events like weddings or date of death like some others do.

- according to the genealogy site, she had two children by unknown fathers - two boys named Henri. The first one died shortly after birth but the second Henri lived until 1966. The good news is that he was born in the 9th arrondissement which is where the said locked up apartment is.

-so, if you look up his birth certificate (page 30 in the book) the story is a bit iffy. He was born in Rue Saint Lazare 100 in 1884 and his birth was declared by the midwife who stated his mother was Mathilde Vaugiron who had no known occupation. There is an addendum to this, done later, where it says that Mathilde Beaugiron recognized the child as hers in 1889. So, I'm not sure the Vaugiron was a typo that had to be amended or some clever 19th century subterfuge. In any case, he was recognized by his mother but the father is unknown.

- this birth certificate gives his mother's address as Rue Condorcet, 69 in the 9th arrondissement.

- Henri died in Paris in the 9th arrondissement on 12 May 1966. This might be where you should ask for a death certificate using the links that lapsangsouchong has given. At least you can see if he was living at Rue Condorcet at time of death. Which would sort of mess up the "apartment locked up for 70 years" story.

- another line of enquiry is to look at Marthe de Florian's sister's family in case this grand daughter was actually a great niece since Henri doesn't appear to have had issue.
posted by Marauding Ennui at 3:44 AM on August 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: We didn't find the answer, despite our efforts. One of us even called and spoke directly with Karine Villanfray, who is very nice but also protective of her clients confidentiality.

If nothing else, we took part in a very interesting mystery and maybe... just maybe... the mystery is more fun than the solution. Each one of us has their own idea about what happened. In my mind, there's a love lost in the war and a Miss Miss Havisham reaction to the loss.

And until we actually find the answer, there's nothing to shake me from my beautiful notions.
posted by aristan at 4:56 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

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