The Panther Motif
The panther is a motif with a long tradition at Cartier. Their use of the celebrated diamond and onyx panther coat, 'peau de panthère', reaches back to 1914, although it was not described as such until 1917. In its beginning, the panther theme reflected the contemporary concept of the Lady-Panther as a symbol of demonic eroticism. Celebrities such as Sarah Bernardt were known to receive their admirers holding a panther on a leash and in art, too, panthers often conferred a sexual innuendo. Jeanne Toussaint (1887-1978), artistic adviser to Cartier and involved in a discreet friendship with Louis Cartier (1875-1942) was nicknamed 'Panther'. Her love for the panther motif soon turned it into a long-term favourite of Cartier's designers. However, it was not until 1948 the firm created a three-dimensional panther, commissioned for the Duchess of Windsor. Other Cartier clients who were to become panther enthusiasts include the Princess Nina Aga Khan whereas Barbara Hutton favoured the tiger variations as sampled in the ring (lot 122). The modern version of the tiger motif is often rendered in yellow diamonds, thereby perfectly reflecting the tiger's natural colouration.
Whereas three-dimensional representations of the ear clips and ring (lots 121 and 122) emphasise the sophistication and aloofness of the cats, the irregularly shaped cabochon sapphires of the ear hoops (lot 124) imitate the flecked coat of the panther with understatement. During the 1980s, panther skin jewels acquired a modern edge until, ultimately, the panther skin became as stylised as seen on the necklace (lot 123). The panther has proven a timeless and extremely chic motif.
Cf. Hans Nadelhoffer, Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary (London 1984), pp. 228-232