We all know of the fantastic birds and beasts that roam the Cartier Menagerie. For a century, they’ve enthralled the stars of the fashionable world, including the Duchess of Windsor. What many don’t know is that it was one woman Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1976) who brought the wild kingdom to Cartier’s repertoire. Muse, lover, and director of Cartier’s luxury jewelry department, the visionary Toussaint moved the designer from abstract to figurative work–including the famed Cartier panther.
Fashionable, fierce, and fond of big cat furs, Toussaint was dubbed “la panthere” by Louis Cartier early in their lifelong relationship. In 1917, he created a vanity case for her with his very first panther imagery. She soon joined the company and rose to the head of jewelry in 1933, taking the panther concept to glittering heights.Toussaint designed the first Cartier three-dimensional panther jewel for the Duchess of Windsor, a sensuous diamond and onyx elongated panther bracelet that draped over her wrist. Soon, other glamorous women were clamoring for their own panther jewelry. Last year, the prestigious Panthère de Cartier collection celebrated 100 years. Not only big cats, but Cartier’s sumptuous bird jewelry took flight with Toussaint. According to jewelery dealer Dianne Lewis-Batista, Toussaint “felt that jewelry needed to be based on joy; what better subject than birds? ” In 1944, Toussaint designed another legendary piece: “Caged Bird,” which showed a bird in French colors poised for flight to celebrate the end of WWII. The striking antique falconer brooch above and the beautiful amethyst-breasted bird below were both designed in the 1940s, the golden age of Toussaint’s directorship. To inquire about the pieces above or learn more, contact Botier [Gallery 15/212.371.2424]. To inquire about the brooch below or learn more, contact Joseph Saidian & Sons [Gallery 48/212.752.2684].