Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Cartier: La Petite Boîte Rouge

Panthère de Cartier
Image courtesy of: The New Gentry

Cartier: La Petite Boîte Rouge
(A film by Marie Brand & Minou Azoulai)
Video courtesy of: Gregory Pons ~ Rutube

Complementing ‘Cartier: Le style et l'histoire’—the exhibition held at the Grand Palais in Paris from December 4th, 2013 to February 16th, 2014—‘Cartier: La Petite Boîte Rouge’  (a 2013 film by Marie Brand and Minou Azoulai for ARTE France and RMN [Réunion des musées nationaux] - Grand Palais) traces the history, as well as the iconography, of the House of Cartier—long acclaimed to be the ‘King of Jewellers’ and ‘Jewellers to Kings’—that made it the quintessential brand of Haute Joaillerie the world over. Drawing on Cartier's extensive design archives, the film delves into the shifting social, historical and cultural influences that have shaped the firm's design evolution over its long, prestigious history. The film also takes into account some of the personalities who have played an integral role in that history—the creative direction of the indomitable Jeanne Toussaint (nicknamed ‘La panthère’), being foremost among them, the influence of whose aesthetic sensibilities cannot be underestimated. (It was Madame Toussaint who popularised the ‘Tutti Frutti’ jewellery—a palette of coloured stones comprised of emeralds, sapphires, diamonds, onyx and rubies all mixed together in one piece—in the 1920s, first introduced by Pierre Cartier in 1901 when he was commissioned to create a necklace for (the regal) Queen Alexandra of Great Britain (consort of Edward VII, a devotee of Cartier's—a devotion inherited by his grandson, Edward VIII, who abdicated his monarchical duties in December of 1936—for a life in exile—and henceforth became known as Edward, Duke of Windsor), “to be worn with three Indian gowns given to her by Mary Curzon, wife of the Viceroy of India. The master jeweler’s necklace succeeded in blending the sumptuous curves and dazzling colors associated with the perceived exoticism of India with the techniques of modern craftsmanship perfected at the House of Cartier. The necklace opened the door to future Royal commissions and became the basis for the firm’s most celebrated foray into jewels of Eastern inspiration.”). Indeed, as the quote (and film) makes clear, the savvy designers at Cartier had a unique talent for translating cultural developments and events—(the new Egyptian Revival that followed upon the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in November of 1922, for instance)—and exotic ethnic proclivities—(such as the Indian- or Mughal-inspired jewellery based, as it was, in Eastern motifs and techniques, in the manner of carving gemstones, for example)—or new technologies—(in the way of deriving inspiration from modern-age machinery and streamlined industrial designs of the Art Moderne period)—into (at times) whimsical and fantastically stylish designs—coveted by those with the available means necessary—that proved its relevance and demonstrated its viability in rapidly changing times; it is precisely Cartier's adaptability, backed by its willingness to cater to the caprices of its customers, however fanciful or eccentric the request may be and in whatever form it may assume, which has always set them a bit apart from other fine French jewellery Houses of the era. And underlying its versatility and dedication to sterling customer service is Cartier's unrelenting pursuit of perfection: the finest materials possible, excellence of craftsmanship, and the elevation of jewellery technique and design to the level of Art. (Quote source: Nadelhoffer, H., Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York,1984:172)

But just as influential—and perhaps just as closely associated with Cartier—as Madame Toussaint were some of Cartier's more memorable clients who left their own imprint on the brand and its image: Bhupinder Singh, the Maharajah of Patiala (photographs of whom invariably portray him resplendent in his magnificent Patiala Necklace); the Duchess of Windsor (with her penchant for Toussaint's panther-motif rendered jewellery); Elizabeth Taylor (and her famous Taylor-Burton 69.42 carat pear-shaped diamond); Gloria Swanson (and the notable pair of rock crystal-and-diamond bangles she sported in the 1950 film ‘Sunset Boulevard’); María Félix (notorious for her fully articulated crocodile necklace) and Jean Cocteau (for whom Cartier custom-created an Academician's sword—following Cocteau's own design and with a square-cut emerald provided by Coco Chanel—for his election to the Académie Française in 1955)—all of whom, including such celebrated demi-mondaines as Liane de Pougy, make appearances, however fleetingly, in ‘Cartier: La Petite Boîte Rouge’.

Platinum & diamond olive-wreath tiara created by Cartier ~ Paris, 1907
(Commissioned & owned by Marie Bonaparte, great-granddaughter of Napoleon's younger brother, Lucien,
for  her marriage to Prince George of Greece and Denmark in 1907)
Image courtesy of: Forbes Magazine

  The above two videos are courtesy of: Cartier ~ YouTube

Photo by Jean Larivière ~ 2000
(Image courtesy of: HPrints)

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