Cartier’s Panthère history, the most famous icon of the great French Maison ♦
Why do jewelry (and Cartier watches) often use the Panther icon, which has become the sign of some famous collections? The charm of Panthère originated in 1914, with a picture. 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 be used as an invitation to a jewelery exhibition.
The Dame à la Panthère depicts a woman dressed elegantly with a panther at her feet. The small painting has been successful so much that Cartier has since started using the feline design.
According to Cartier’s Geo Cramer, “in the early twentieth century, the big cats were in vogue to express femininity: these animals were seen as the highest expression of women.” Characters who celebrated the Paris nights, such as the marquis Luisa Casati, who had adopted cheetahs in his home in Venice (now Guggenheim’s home), confirm the charm of super cats in the high society. In any case, in 1914 marks the first Cartier Panther: a clock that has a spotted surface. The panther has been portrayed for the first time on a beauty case owned by Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier jeweler since 1933, considered the Coco Chanel of jewels.
A relationship between Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976) and Louis Cartier began when she was 31 years old. Cartier had been intimidated by his beauty, the carefree spirit, and the aura of greatness. Toussaint has played an important role in making the Panthère de Cartier collection the icon that has become so much that she herself has been dubbed La Panthère. In 1927, a designer named Peter Lemarchand joined the Cartier team. He was very skilled, he observed panthers at the zoo until, in collaboration with Toussaint, he was able to translate them into designs to make jewelery. Lemarchand has played an important role in making the panther the legend that is today. During this period, the first brownies depicting animals appear.
Over the years many celebrities and high society figures have become enthusiasts of the Panthère de Cartier collection. Actresses such as Mexican Maria Felix, American heiress Barbara Hutton, or the Windsor Duchess, have been amongst the fans of the Parisian maidens’ panthers. In 1948, for example, her third husband, Wallis Simpson, Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, asked Cartier to create a three-dimensional panther brow for his wife. The result is a yellow gold jewel dotted with black enamel with 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. One year later, in 1949, the Windsor bought another three-dimensional panther, this time made of platinum-plated diamonds and onyx, on a 152-carat cabochon sapphire. Not only that: the Duchess of Windsor bought other pieces from the Pantera collection in the following years.
Even Daisy Fellowes, a heathen, director of the American fashion magazine Harper Bazaar, was also a fan of Cartier’s Panther: at the time he bought a diamond brooch and sapphire, with the feline in the sheep’s postage marking the order chivalrous of the Golden Toson. In 1958 Pantera won Princess Nina Aga Khan (Nina Dyer, Anglo-Indian model married to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan). The Aga Khan has purchased several items from the Panthère de Cartier collection, including a brooch, a bracelet with ends shaped like panther heads, and a grooved gold bracelet designed with elements that can turn into earrings. And the story goes on. In 2014 Cartier celebrated the 100th anniversary of Panthère de Cartier with a series of 56 pieces of jewelery and an exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais. Giulia Netrese