Art Deco Orientalist Sautoir
This sautoir ranks amongst Cartier's greatest achievements. As fine examples of creations from the Art Deco period become ever more rare, it is fortunate that this necklace of exceptional quality and inspiration has not been remodeled, as so many have been over the time.
The origins of the Art Deco movement can be found in the early years of the 20th Century. In 1906, the well-known Parisian jeweller Louis Cartier encouraged his best designers Baloche, Rauline and Thomas to venture for the first time into abstract and geometric forms. Calibr-cut coloured stones in simple squares, polygons and lozenges made a timid appearance to the detriment of the firm's "style guirlande".
The most radical transformation of the period concerned the feminine silhouette. The new woman was liberated from the corset, freed from the long skirts and emancipated from the immense and unwieldy hats. By 1910, the popularity of bodice jewellery had waned as a result of Paul Poiret's new fashions which eliminated the plunging neckline, the dog collar was considered dated, and the long diamond chain, harbinger of the heavy sautoir of the late 1920s, began its triumphal progress. The jewellers of the time followed suit with the new styles, establishing a productive dialogue with "haute couture". Due to the strong ties between the two, Cartier exhibited at the haute couture "Pavillon d'Elgance" during the 1925 exhibition instead of at the Grand Palais with the other jewellers.
If the jewellery designers absorbed all of the artistic manifestos which had circulated throughout Europe, they also sought inspiration in far away civilisations. The taste for exoticism and the fascination exercised by the Orient were not recent and came from many sources. As far back as 1853-54, Commodore Matthew Perry led an expedition to Japan, once again encouraging the trade with the far-off country and establishing the taste for 'Japonisme'. In 1909, Sergei de Diaghilev's Ballets Russes opened in Paris, the colourful and often Oriental-style costumes for which were avidly followed by fashion and jewellery designers alike. Haute Couture adopted all things Oriental in 1923, after the Chinese Ball at the Paris Opra. The interest in Oriental art offered European artists and designers a new source of stylistic motifs and they adapted, in their own fashion, the decorative elements inspired by various sources: from Moghul flowers to the Arabic decorations. It seemed that the development of magazines and books offered increasing possibilities for the knowledge of artistic expressions different from those of the West.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Cartier's London house overshadowed the Paris firm in the production of large necklaces. Most of them were diamond or coloured stone sautoirs, of which an astonishing number were sold in England, The present sautoir, dated 1926, is one of the great necklaces of the period, demonstrating the incredible quality of the designers of the time, who perfectly combined Oriental inspiration with Western production standards to create such a jewel which after almost 90 years, is still of outstanding modernity.
Sylvie Raulet, 'Art Deco Jewels'
Hans Nadelhoffer, 'Cartier Jewelers Extraordinary'