History of the Cartier Panther, the most famous icon of the great French Maison. Here are all the things to know about the precious Panthère ♦
Why do jewels (and Cartier watches) often use the Panther icon, which has become the sign of some famous collections? The charm of the Panthère originates in 1914, with a painting. At that time, as the expert Sabrina Doerr said, the Parisian company was run by Louis, Jacques, and Pierre Cartier (the Maison was founded in 1847 by his grandfather, Louis-François Cartier).
That year Louis asked French painter George Barbier to create a watercolor painting to use as an invitation to a jewelry exhibition. La Dame à la Panthère depicts an elegantly dressed woman with a panther at her feet. The small painting was so successful that from that moment Cartier started using the feline design.
According to Geo Cramer, an expert at Cartier, “at the beginning of the twentieth century, big cats were in vogue to express femininity: these animals were seen as the highest expression of women”. Characters who animated Parisian nights, such as the Marquise Luisa Casati, who had adopted cheetahs in her house in Venice (now home to the Guggenheim), confirm the fascination that super cats exerted in high society. In any case, in 1914 it marks Cartier’s first panther: a watch that has a speckled surface. The panther was completely depicted for the first time on a beauty case owned by Jeanne Toussaint, director of Cartier jewelry since 1933, considered the Coco Chanel of jewelry.
A working relationship between Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976) and Louis Cartier began when she was 31. Cartier had been awed by his beauty, carefree spirit, and aura of grandeur. Toussaint played an important role in making the Panthère de Cartier collection the icon it has become, so much so that she herself has been nicknamed La Panthère. In 1927, a designer named Peter Lemarchand joined the Cartier team. Very skilled, he observed the panthers at the zoo until, in collaboration with Toussaint, he was able to translate them into designs for making jewelry. Lemarchand played an important role in making the panther the legend it is today. In this period the first brooches depicting animals appear.
Over the years, many celebrities and high society figures have become admirers of the Panthère de Cartier collection. Actresses such as the Mexican Maria Felix, the American heiress Barbara Hutton, or the Duchess of Windsor, were among the fans of the panthers of the Parisian Maison. In 1948, for example, Wallis Simpson’s third husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, asked Cartier to create a three-dimensional panther brooch for his wife. The result is a jewel in yellow gold dotted with black enamel with an emerald-cut cabochon. This brooch also marked a milestone in the history of the Panthère de Cartier: it was the first time the feline was represented in three dimensions. A year later, in 1949, the Windsors bought another three-dimensional panther brooch, this time made with diamonds and onyx set in platinum, on a 152-carat sapphire cabochon. Not only that: the Duchess of Windsor bought other pieces from the Pantera collection in the following years.
Daisy Fellowes, socialite, heiress, editor of the American fashion magazine Harper Bazaar, was also a fan of the Cartier panther: in her time she bought a diamond and sapphire brooch, with the feline in the position of the sheep that symbolizes order. chivalrous of the Golden Fleece. In 1958, the Panther conquered Princess Nina Aga Khan (Nina Dyer, an Anglo-Indian model married to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan). The Aga Khan purchased several elements of the Panthère de Cartier collection, including a brooch, a bracelet with panther-shaped ends, and a fluted gold bracelet designed with elements that can be transformed into earrings. And the story still continues. In 2014 Cartier celebrated 100 years of Panthère de Cartier with a series of 56 pieces of jewelery and an exhibition in Paris, at the Grand Palais.