Cartier, The Exhibition

Noteworthy Nouveau to Deco Drama, Maharajahs to Princess Grace

Catherine D. Anspon  |  Photos by Cartier Mystery Clock, 1921, platinum, gold, rock crystal, rose-cut diamonds, turquoise-colored and black enamel, turquoise cabochons, obsidian base, ebonite platform. Photo courtesy N.Herrmann, Collection Cartier, © Cartier.
January 08, 2014

The house of Cartier, established 1847, was never a mere jeweler. Now one exhibition proves it. A decade after the illustrious international Cartier design blockbuster curated by Ettore Sottsass (which touched down at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2004), comes a show that tops even that. Cue “Cartier: Style and History,” a glamorous, over-the-top display of the wonders and riches of the art of fine bijoux. But this exhibition is more than an amalgamation of beautiful baubles. It’s jewelry as a grand novel and full-on historical romance , flaunting witty design, global passion and glamorous royals, a parade of maharajahs and of course, America’s own aristocracy. The Grand Palais in Paris is the mise en scène for this sumptuous 600-piece overview, spanning the mid-19th century to the 1970s, Mystery clocks to tank watches and tiaras, and their accompanying ephemera including workshop drawings, fashions of the era and historical advertisements. Curators Laurent Salomé and Laure Dalon raid the vault of Cartier, plus coax some once-in-a-lifetime loans. Watch for a showcase devoted to Princess Grace’s jewels and also a cache of dazzling Deco-era Tutti Frutti. A broad swath of the bejeweled epochs and fabled collectors of Cartier are here — the 1930s-era Halo tiara Kate Middleton donned on her wedding day, the Duchess of Windsor’s flamingo brooch, other creations sported by Daisy Fellowes, Barbara Hutton, Liz Taylor, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Marlene Dietrich, Mona Bismarck, and natch, the aforementioned maharajahs. If you’re contemplating a Parisian escapade this winter, make it before February 16, so you can do some serious gem gazing at this altar to Cartier.