From the beauty case of Jeanne Toussaint to the majestic symbol of the Maison of High Jewelery. History and curiosities about Cartier’s Panther (Panthère)

A heraldic figure has become the undisputed symbol of the well-known Maison: her furtive and elegant gait, sinuous and, for this reason, an expression of full femininity, so much so that Panthère it is not only a subject that appears on jewels and watches, in the homonymous collection, but it has become an emblem.

For the first time it was associated with Cartier in 1914, with an illustration: one of the heirs of the founder Louis-François Cartier, Louis Cartier, relies on the expert hand of the painter George Barbier to create a watercolor painting to use as an invitation to a jewelry exhibition. Elegant, refined and bewitching, you can see in the center Dame à la Panthère: she is a woman dressed according to the fashion of the time, with a black panther on her feet and adorned with a jewel collar. The absolutely new female image, free and relaxed, mysterious and refined, at times exotic or classic, wrapped in light fabrics and jewels, met with considerable success, so much so that from that moment Cartier began to use the feline design for creativity and communication.

Strictly speaking, the exotic was very popular during the Belle Époque, mainly thanks to travel, not only for business and favored by technology, as well as the Parisian clothes made by Paul Poiret, the first true modern designer who adapted Russian and African costumes for the fashion of the time, cutting harem pants, humpel skirts, kimono jackets and turban hats. There oriental trend is launched by the tailor and culminates with a social evening, the Feast of the Thousand and One Nights, held on June 24, 1911. The nights of the time were animated by characters who enthusiastically embraced the exotic, in dressing and living everyday life: the Marquise Luisa Casati kept cheetahs in her Venetian home, while the dancer Joséphine Baker walked along the Seine with a majestic leopard, called Chiquita. We are not surprised, therefore, if even Cartier fell into the cat trap, bewitched by that Panther who in the illustration stands as protector of exotic and mysterious beauty.

In that year, in 1914, the Maison presented the first watch with a spotted surface, in onyx and diamonds, while the complete figure appeared for the first time only in 1933, when Jeanne Toussaint, director of Cartier jewelry, chooses the image for a beauty case. It is thanks to him that the Panther is now associated with the name Cartier.

Right from the start the jewels with the famous feline are chosen by women with a strong personality, enterprising and often indomitable. Among these we certainly want to remember Wallis Simpson, the very elegant American who had won King Edward’s heart. It is in fact the heir to the British throne to commission the first brooch Panthère to Cartier, in 1948: a three-dimensional animal in gold, enriched with enamels and cabochon-cut emeralds. The platinum, diamond and sapphire version followed, the first bracelet as well as the goggles (lorgnette) with feline grip. Très chic!

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