PARIS – An exhibition at Decorative Arts highlights the contribution of Islamic arts to a pillar of the French luxury industry: the jeweler Cartier.
Museum director Olivier Gabet, speaking on the title of the exhibition “Cartier and Islamic Arts – In Search of Modernity”, said he “puts everything on the same level, [proving] excellence from one world to another, from one generation to another, from one culture to another – an invitation to dialogue between cultures – and how human ingenuity is [all we need] to create again.
The exhibition focuses on the production of the house of fine jewelry from the dawn of the twentieth century to the present day, informed by the archive documents of the house; masterpieces of Islamic art exhibited in the first European exhibitions on the ground, and the central figures of Louis and Jacques Cartier, grandsons of the founder of the house Louis-FranÃ§ois Cartier, who traveled the world to procure stones and amass cultural elements that would then nourish their design teams.
Considering cultural appropriation, Gabet explained during a guided tour on Monday that the exhibition was “exactly the opposite: people like Jacques Cartier defended [their sources of inspiration] to prove that they were equally beautiful and precious [as Greco-Roman antiques and 18th-century paintings]. “
According to Gabet, the exhibition “validated in retrospect” the reason for the creation of the museum in the 19th century, when the founders – including the jewelry house – assembled collections intended to inspire artists and craftsmen.
A co-production between the MusÃ©e des Arts DÃ©coratifs and the Dallas Museum of Art, with the collaboration of the Louvre and the support of the Maison Cartier itself, the exhibition was born from the acquisition by the Louvre of a pen case Mughal from the late 16th century that was once part of Louis Cartier’s art collection.
Carved from walrus ivory and inlaid with gold, turquoise and silk, the object gave rise to the idea that a large part of Cartier’s productions bore the influence of art and culture. Islamic architecture, according to Gabet.
“Our whole [four-year] the preparatory work consisted in proving the contribution of these arts, by their patterns or their colors, to the Cartier aesthetic â, specifies Judith Henon-Raynaud, chief curator of heritage and assistant to the director of the Department of Islamic Arts of the Louvre.
She is one of the four curators of this exhibition alongside Heather Ecker, Marguerite S. Hossman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the Dallas Museum of Art; Evelyn PossÃ©mÃ©, Chief Curator of the Department of Ancient and Modern Jewelry at the Museum of Decorative Arts, and Sarah Schleuning, Principal Curator of Decorative Arts and Margot B. Perot Design at the Dallas Museum of Art.
The exhibition was conceived in two parts, with more than 500 pieces, ranging from 885 to the end of the 2010s – historical objects and jewelry. Henon-Raynaud cautioned against taking too narrow a view of Islamic arts, given that the geographic scope of civilization stretched from Spain and the Persian Empire to the Arabian Peninsula and the borders of modern China.
Facing the entrance, a 1924 Cartier vanity in gold and platinum is juxtaposed against a 19th century Iranian wood and marquetry box, their surfaces bearing a similar frame design, while a court belt with palm tree motifs stylized woven silk and silver is placed nearby with a platinum tiara, diamond and carved turquoise palm trees.
Occupying the central nave, monumental screens give life to selected pieces – a tiara and a detachable necklace in bracelets, in particular – moving them from their inspiration to the finished pieces, to transcribe “the way in which the illustrators of the House of Cartier have translates two-dimensional geometric patterns inspired by Islamic references into carefully designed artifacts capable of reacting to gravity and the organic surface of the body, âexplained a statement from set designer Elizabeth Diller and her team at DS + R design studio.
One case shows the progression of Cartier creations, from the opulent garland style of the Victorian era to the geometric designs that have become synonymous with the Art Deco style.
The North Gallery looks at the sources of inspiration available, ranging from books and early photographs to ceramics and antique jewelry. A sketchbook shows snapshots of Egyptian monuments juxtaposed with zoological illustrations and swirling patterns.
At the center of this section is Louis Cartier’s personal collection of Islamic arts, which he made available free of charge to those who worked for the family business, starting with illustrator Charles Jacqueau, whose sketches appear prominently in the exhibition.
It is difficult to date the beginning of Louis Cartier’s interest, according to Henon-Raynaud, who places it between the first exhibition on Islamic arts at the MusÃ©e des Arts dÃ©coratifs in 1903, and another in Munich in 1910. As early as 1912, it appears as a lender in subsequent exhibitions.
Scattered after Cartier’s death in 1942 without being cataloged, his collection has been painstakingly reconstructed by curators using old archival photographs, sketches and even invoices, although these have proven difficult to analyze. , given the family’s early antiques trade.
In the south gallery, the repertoire of shapes such as teardrop-shaped motifs called boteh and mandorle; geometric designs inspired by architectural elements; or cloud necklaces – a design itself imported from Chinese aesthetics – have been explored in depth, from their original forms to the creative process that led to their Cartier incarnations.
While it was not possible to establish direct links between the ancient objects on display and the Cartier objects which shared their motifs, the curators endeavored to select objects which had been presented in exhibitions at the turn of the 20th century. century, as they would probably have been seen by the Cartier and their creative teams, explained Henon-Raynaud. She pointed out how the green palm trees and red-orange poppies of Iznik ceramics were transcribed using coral and emeralds, or how the hinged bracelets owed their design to the elaborate masonry of a mosque.
The final pieces in the exhibition provided further evidence of the continued influence of Islamic arts in the production of the house: a bead bracelet from 2017 had a nephrite jade amulet engraved with a surah from the Quran, dating to the Eighteenth-century Iran, as a centerpiece. . An articulated necklace, depicted on a robotic bust that rose and flattened completely, was both abstract and reminiscent of geometric patterns seen elsewhere in the exhibits.
The exhibition opens to the public Thursday and will run until February 20, 2022. It will then go to the Dallas Museum of Art where it will take place from May 14 to September 18 under the title “Cartier and Islamic Art: to the search for Modernity. âThe English edition of the catalog will be released by Thames and Hudson on November 4 in the UK and April 12 in the US.