A new exhibition in Paris, Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs traces the influence of Islamic art on some of Cartier’s most iconic creations and creations. We spoke with Évelyne Possémé, chief curator of ancient and modern jewelry at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris and Judith Hénon-Raynaud, curator and deputy director of the Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre, Paris, at About the conservation of the exhibition and the improbable link between Cartier and Islamic art.
What the influence of Islamic art on Cartier in the 20th century?
The discovery and study of Islamic art allowed Maison Cartier to enter a modern era and herald the Art Deco movement in the 1910s.
What role did Louis and Jacques Cartier, two of the founder’s grandsons, play in developing the new aesthetic of the house?
Louis and Jacques Cartier played a major role in creating a new aesthetic. Founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, Maison Cartier first specialized in the sale of jewelry and works of art. His son, Alfred, took over the company in 1874, and his eldest son, Louis, joined him later in 1898.
At the start of the 20th century, Louis Cartier sought new inspiration. Louis soon enriched his grandfather’s library with numerous works of Islamic art and architecture which, along with ornamental books, was one of the first sources of inspiration for the designers of the house. Beginning in the 1910s, he built his personal collection of Islamic art, focusing on art books and precious Indian and Iranian inlaid objects from the 16th and 17th centuries. He was a lender to many international exhibitions of Islamic art, but Louis Cartier never published his collections and the pieces were dispersed after his death. For this exhibition, its collection of Islamic Art has been reconstituted through publications and archives.
Jacques Cartier developed it during his travels, notably in India in 1911, where he met the Maharajahs of the subcontinent. The trade in precious stones and pearls offered Jacques Cartier a gateway to this country. This allowed him to forge relationships with the Maharajahs while collecting ancient and contemporary Indian jewelry, which he would resell as is, be inspired by them or dismantle them to integrate them into new models.
What were the pivotal moments of their inspiration?
Through the drawings kept in the archives and the very rich workshop collection of designer Charles Jacqueau, kept at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the city of Paris, we can identify the works they select for their compositions, their patterns, or their chromaticism. harmonies. We find the process of creation, from the object of inspiration through formal research to the final creations.
How did this aesthetic change under Jeanne Toussaint?
In the 1930s, under the artistic direction of Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s style gave way to new shapes and color combinations inspired mainly by India. Tutti Frutti pieces, necklaces and large-scale jewelry characterized Cartier’s highly recognizable style and many of their designs from the second half of the 20th century. She introduced the mauve hue of amethysts into the already colorful harmonies of Louis Cartier. She liked jewelry on a larger scale and used features such as raised clusters of stones. She worked until the 1970s and saw the advent of “hippie chic” jewelry with large colorful necklaces.
How did you approach the curator of jewelry selection?
First, we made the widest possible selection, choosing jewelry and objects that may have a link with Islamic art. Then, with the help of archives, photos, drawings and books, we tried to trace the creative process and confirm these links.
What are the most impressive pieces on display?
Among the masterpieces, three are presented at the entrance of the exhibition, These are two jewels and an adornment alongside their Islamic reference. What makes them so special are their links with the arts of Islam and their patterns: boteh, mandorles, fleurons, etc. In particular, the turquoise and mother-of-pearl ensemble, an object for which we have discovered the source of inspiration. It is a mirror display case or a fragment of an Iranian display case from the 19th century, the composition of which was used for the reconstruction and presentation of this set.
Do some pieces have unique artisanal methods?
The use of cutting precious stones in various shapes like leaves, flowers and berries by Indians since the Mughal era was redesigned by the Cartier house in 1925 and used in multicolored jewelry which much later will be called “Tutti Frutti”. It has become a pillar of the emblematic Maison Cartier brand.
In addition to art and jewelry, there are designs and drawings from the archives. What did you learn from examining the archives?
The archives have made it possible to retrace the process of creation and to highlight the links between Cartier objects and Islamic art, which was initially only an imagined possibility. These archives have enabled us to reconstruct Louis Cartier’s personal collection, and to provide proof that Louis Cartier placed his objects in the hands of designers, because we found imprints made on the works themselves.
We did a lot of work in the archive, looking at the drawings by Charles Jacqueau (at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the city of Paris), the drawings held by Cartier, those in the library, and the glass plates. negative to confirm our hypotheses. It’s confirmed and that’s what you can see in the exhibit.
The exhibition is divided into two distinct parts. Can you describe the structure and the visitor experience?
The exhibition is organized as a thematic chronological route divided into two parts, the first of which explores the origins of this interest in Islamic art and architecture through the cultural background of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and reviews the creative context among designers and studios in search of sources of inspiration.
The second part illustrates the lexicon of forms inspired by Islamic art, from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. DS + R was selected for the scenography of this exhibition. Their style is very refined and allows the pieces to exist on their own, amplifying their patterns in order to give visitors a unique experience.
The exhibition is open until February 20, 2022 and tickets are available in line.