Cartier et les arts de l’Islam. Aux sources de la modernité

from 21 October 2021 to 20 February 2022

From October 21st, 2021 to February 20th, 2022, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris presents ‘Cartier et les arts de l’Islam. Aux sources de la modernité’, co-organized by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris and the Dallas Museum of Art, thanks to an exceptional collaboration with the musée du Louvre and the support of Cartier. This exhibition shows the influence of Islamic Art on the high jewellery Maison Cartier in its design of jewellery and precious objects from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day.

More than 500 pieces including jewellery and objects from Cartier, masterpieces of Islamic art, drawings, books, photographs and archival documents, trace the origins of the jeweller’s interest in Oriental motifs. The exhibition explores the origins of this influence through the Parisian cultural context and the figure of Louis and Jacques Cartier, two of the founder’s grandsons, who played a major role in creating a new aesthetic suffused with modernity. The American architectural firm DS&R (Diller Scofidio & Renfro) was commissioned to design the exhibition’s scenography.


• Evelyne POSSÉMÉ, Chief Curator of Ancient and Modern jewellery at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
• Judith HENON-RAYNAUD, Curator and Deputy Director of the Department of Islamic Art at the Musée du Louvre, Paris
• Sarah SCHLEUNING, Senior Curator of Decorative Art and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art
• Dr. Heather ECKER, Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the Dallas Museum of Art

• DS+R (Diller Scofidio + Renfro).

Exhibition co-organized by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, and the Dallas Museum of Art, with the exceptional collaboration of the Musée du Louvre and the support of Cartier

Court belt, India or Iran, 17th century
Silk, silver thread Musée du Louvre, Paris, département des Arts de l’Islam
© 2007 musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

Founded in 1847 by Louis-François Cartier, the House of Cartier initially specialised in selling jewellery and works of art. His son, Alfred, took over the management of the business in 1874, and his eldest son, Louis, later joined him in 1898. By that time, Cartier was designing its own jewellery, while continuing to resell antique pieces. At the beginning of the 20th century, Louis Cartier sought new inspiration. At the time Paris was the epicentre of the Islamic art trade and it was undoubtedly through major exhibitions organised at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris in 1903 and then in Munich in 1910, that Louis enthusiastically discovered these new shapes which were gradually spreading throughout French society.

The exhibition is organised as a themed chronological tour divided into two parts, the first of which explores the origins of this interest in Islamic art and architecture through the cultural backdrop of Paris at the beginning of the 20th century and reviews the creative context among designers and studios as they searched for sources of inspiration. The second part illustrates the lexicon of forms inspired by Islamic art, from the start of the 20th century to the present day.

Tiara, Cartier London, 1936
Platinum, diamonds, turquoise. Vincent Wulveryck. Cartier Collection
© Cartier
Proposal for a powder box, Cartier Paris, circa 1920
Graphite pencil, Indian ink and gouache on tracing paper. Cartier Paris Archives
© Cartier

From the outset, visitors find themselves immersed in these shapes and motifs with three of Cartier’s iconic creations set against masterpieces of Islamic art. Along the North Gallery, you are invited, room after room, to explore the creative process and the initial sources of inspiration in jewellery design. The books in Louis Cartier’s library and his collection of Islamic art were made available as resources for designers. Louis’ personal collection, reconstructed thanks to the archives of the House of Cartier, is represented here through several masterpieces reunited for the first time since the dispersion of his collection. Charles Jacqueau was an important as well as brilliant member of Cartier’s team of designers. A selection of his design drawings is presented here thanks to an exceptional loan from the Petit Palais, Fine Arts Museum of Paris.

Facing panel, Iran Late 14th - 15th century
Ceramic mosaic Musée du Louvre, Paris département des Arts de l’Islam, on loan from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
© 2010 musée du Louvre / Raphaël Chipault

The exhibition continues by exploring Jacques Cartier’s travels, including to India in 1911, where he met with Maharajahs of the subcontinent. The trading of gemstones and pearls offered Jacques Cartier a way into this country. It enabled him to build relationships with Maharajahs all the while collecting antique and contemporary jewellery, which he would either resell unchanged, use as inspiration, or dismantle for integration into new designs.

These different sources of inspiration, and the Oriental jewellery that enriched the House of Cartier’s collections helped to redefine shapes as well as craftsmanship techniques. The head ornaments, tassels, bazubands (an elongated bracelet worn on the upper arm) came in a wide range of shapes, colours and materials to suit the fashions of the time. The flexibility of Indian jewellery led to technical innovation, new settings, and different methods of assembling pieces. Incorporating different parts of jewellery, fragments of Islamic works of art referred to as ‘apprêts,’ and the use of Oriental textiles to create bags and accessories, was also a hallmark of the House of Cartier in the early 20th century.

Pyxis, Sicily 15th century
Ivory (elephant), copper alloy. Exhibited at the Islamic Arts exhibition, Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1903. Musée du Louvre, Paris département des Arts de l’Islam
© 2015 musée du Louvre / Chipault - Soligny

The second part of the exhibition, in the South Gallery, is dedicated to the lexicon of forms inspired by Islamic art, particularly thanks to the collections belonging to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre. Most of these works were displayed at the first-ever exhibitions devoted to Islamic art. They certainly would have been seen by the Cartier designers or known to them thanks to the publications kept in Louis Cartier’s library.

Although famed for its ‘garland style’ jewellery, from 1904 onwards, Cartier began developing pieces inspired by the geometric patterns of Islamic art found in books about ornamentation and architecture. Enamelled brick decorations from Central Asia and stepped merlons, amongst others, form the basis of a precursory repertoire later described as ‘Art Deco’ - in reference to the ‘Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes’ in Paris in 1925, bringing Cartier into the modern world very early on.

Cartier’s production under the artistic direction of Louis Cartier is notable for the inspiration he took from the Persian world as well as the art of the book. The patterns which decorate bindings – the central medallion surrounded by fleurons and corner pieces – were sometimes reproduced exactly, but more often pulled apart and recreated to form a pattern whose source is indiscernible to the untrained eye. This is the case with mandorlas, palmettes, foliage, sequins, scrolls, scales, etc. Louis innovated with bold combinations of colours and materials, combining lapis lazuli and turquoise, matching the green of jade or emerald with the blue of lapis lazuli or sapphire to create his famous ‘peacock pattern.’Cartier’s production under the artistic direction of Louis Cartier is notable for the inspiration he took from the Persian world as well as the art of the book. The patterns which decorate bindings – the central medallion surrounded by fleurons and corner pieces – were sometimes reproduced exactly, but more often pulled apart and recreated to form a pattern whose source is indiscernible to the untrained eye. This is the case with mandorlas, palmettes, foliage, sequins, scrolls, scales, etc. Louis innovated with bold combinations of colours and materials, combining lapis lazuli and turquoise, matching the green of jade or emerald with the blue of lapis lazuli or sapphire to create his famous ‘peacock pattern.’

Bib necklace, Cartier Paris, commissioned in 1947
Gold, platinum, diamonds, amethysts, turquoise. Commissioned by the Duke of Windsor for the Duchess of Windsor. Nils Herrmann. Cartier Collection
© Cartier

In the 1930s, under the artistic direction of Jeanne Toussaint, Cartier’s style gave way to new shapes and colour combinations inspired mainly by India. Tutti Frutti pieces, sautoirs, and voluminous jewellery characterised Cartier’s highly recognisable style and its creations of the second half of the 20th century.

The tour of the exhibition ends in the Central Hall with digital devices created by Elizabeth Diller’s teams from the DS+R studio, bringing another dimension to the jewellery.

The patterns and shapes from Islamic art and architecture, sometimes easily identifiable, at other times broken down and redesigned to make their source untraceable, became an integral part of the stylistic vocabulary of the designers. Today, they still form a part of the Cartier repertoire, as illustrated by the contemporary jewels which complete the exhibition.

Head ornament, Cartier New York, circa 1924
Platinum, gold, diamonds, feathers. Marian Gérard. Cartier Collection
© Cartier

For the first time, light will be shined on the design process of one of the world’s most renowned jewellers, the House of Cartier. The tremendously rich archives, many design drawings, and photographic collections have all made it possible to trace the original source of many Cartier designs, allowing us to understand the huge impact that the discovery of Islamic art had on the House of Cartier at the start of the 20th century. The Musée des Arts Décoratifs paved the way for this specific research with the exhibition ‘Purs décors ? Arts de l’islam, regards du XIXe siècle’ in 2007, and loaned its substantial collections of Islamic art to those of the Musée du Louvre to form the singular Department of Islamic Arts, inaugurated in 2012. Today, this research and understanding of jewellery has intensified thanks to the study of Cartier’s design history.

Mutual admiration: Islamic art, the museum, and the jeweler
Olivier Gabet, Director of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs

Excerpt from the catalogue.

Vanity case, Cartier Paris, 1924
Gold, platinum, mother-ofpearl, turquoise, emeralds, pearls, diamonds, enamel. Nils Herrmann. Cartier Collection
© Cartier

“Knowledge acquired in a foreign country can be like a motherland, and ignorance can be an exile experienced in one’s own land.” These words by Averroes still resonate with us today, nearly nine centuries after the birth of this Muslim philosopher and jurist from Córdoba.

More than ever, our era needs knowledge and reflection, a sense of perspective and intelligence, as well as beauty and poetry. Over the last few decades, and even before the popularization of the concept of “globalization,” historiography has been consistently promoting a vision of the world in movement, brilliantly illustrated in Histoire du monde au XVe siècle, edited by Patrick Boucheron and published in 2009. Art history has also been influenced by this phenomenon, and has contributed significantly to its expansion, with the pertinent reminder that artists and works of art, particularly objects and inspirations, have also traveled.

Box, Iran, 19th century
Wood and marquetry of colored wood, ivory, and metal (khatamkari). Musée du Louvre, Paris, département des Arts de l’Islam. On loan from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN Grand Palais / Hervé Lewandowski

The Islamic civilization occupies a unique position in the close-knit network of relationships between the Western world and societies beyond its borders, amplified over the centuries by the highly diverse cultural facets it offers, as well as its geography, stretching from the original Mediterranean Basin to more distant lands, from Andalusia to India. A highly political and aesthetically rich subject, the relationship between European artistic creation and Islamic art is anything but incidental, as reflected in the keen awareness of the historical context, from the diplomatic alliances between France during the reign of François I and the Ottoman Empire of Süleyman the Magnificent, to the colonial and imperialist conquests of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – a mix of fascination, violence, and domination. While Edward Saïd’s criticism of Orientalism remains a seminal work, many more recent exhibitions and studies have shown just how much the arts of Islam have shifted from “a passive object of study to that of an active subject of exchange,” to use the words of Rémi Labrusse. His remarkable work has provided a much deeper understanding of the role and influence of Islamic art on Western art, both in Europe and across the Atlantic, notably in the midnineteenth century, a fascinating period that gradually ushered in the emergence of an understanding about these cultural identities that were so diverse, as well as their assimilation in multiple artistic and aesthetic projects. […]

Pendant, Cartier Paris, special order, 1902
Gold, silver, diamonds. Formerly in Jane Hading collection. Vincent Wulveryck. Cartier Collection
© Cartier

Although the establishment had been in business for some years, it was Louis, the eldest of several brilliant siblings, including Pierre and Jacques, who, in a short span of visionary growth, crafted the enduring international fame of their family name, which is synonymous with creativity and luxury. The deep and genuine enthusiasm for Islamic art, one of the keys to their success, opened multiple doors: while his brother Jacques, predestined to be an explorer, traveled to India and the Persian Gulf in 1911- 1912 to form relationships with the pearl merchants of Bahrain Island, Louis, relying on his sharp eye and keen sense of taste, was amassing a collection that would become one of the most remarkable of its kind in the twentieth century. This singular passion was not due to a soulless process of accumulation; it arose from the productive terrain of constant inspiration, which from India to Egypt, from Morocco to Iran, fueled a decidedly modern artistic expression, drawing on sources beyond well-worn European historical styles. […]

Portrait of Fath ‘Ali Shah, attributed to Mihr ‘Ali Iran, 1800-1806
Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris, département des Arts de l’Islam. On loan from the Château-Domaine national de Versailles
Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Hervé Lewandowski

One century later, the Cartier and Islamic Art: In Search of Modernity exhibition and its catalogue are exploring this history with precision, curiosity, generosity, and panache. […]

This ambitious project, a unique and original collaborative effort between the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Musée du Louvre, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Maison Cartier, is the result of efforts spanning several years to share the available knowledge and to meticulously study an entire aspect of the history of style […].

This process involved taking the necessary time to delve into the massive Maison Cartier Archives, to cross-check this information with public and private collections around the world, bringing to life the passions of a man, a family, and a business. These are placed squarely at the heart of this undertaking that recognizes and acknowledges the major role of Islamic art in the history of art and of the decorative arts – and then showcases the considerable and overwhelming élan these arts gave to the art of jewelry, through the insight and discernment of a few key people, from Louis Cartier to Jeanne Toussaint. […]

In a time marked by so many crises and upheavals, tensions, and misunderstandings, museums have a responsibility to help people see and understand, to discover and appreciate. In their era, Louis Cartier and his family were thrilled with the beauty of Islamic art, creating an endless repertoire of shapes and marvels; they, too, sparked enthusiasm and promoted what Henri Loyrette described in 2012 as “the luminous side of Islamic civilization. ”

Islamic art “revealed”: a path toward modern design
Judith Henon-Raynaud & Évelyne Possémé
Stepped merlon, Iran, 10th-11th century
Stucco. Paris, Musée du Louvre, département des Arts de l’Islam
© Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais /Claire Tabbagh / Collections Numériques

After a long process, the study of Islamic art became established as a discipline in its own right in the early twentieth century, gradually disassociating itself from its initial links to nineteenthcentury Orientalism with its inherent contradictions. Islamic works of art earned admiration for their intrinsic qualities, and the context of their production was brought to light and given its true place in the history of art. International political developments contributed to this process: the weakening of great, Islamic empires in the face of Western, colonial greed encouraged the exodus of works of art to Europe, and notably to Paris. Presented at the great exhibitions of the early twentieth century, these works – and the art of the book in particular – were received favorably, strongly impacting contemporary artists and creators of the time with the force of a “revelation” and sparking a vogue for all things Persian. One might ask if Islamic art was perceived by some as a means of awakening Western art from the torpor into which it had stagnated, and perhaps thereby helping to pave the way to modern design. […]

Under the aegis of a new institution, the Union Centrale des Beaux-Arts Appliqués à l’Industrie – created in 1864 and renamed the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (UCAD) in 1882 – a core group of art enthusiasts emerged who contributed to the development of a new discipline devoted to the study of Islamic art. The 1893 exhibition at the Palais de l’Industrie marked a watershed as the first show of “Muslim” art – a name that now prevailed over the earlier “Saracen” and “Arab” art. The works on display were of remarkable quality and the evident aims of the show were to trace the history of Eastern art and to stimulate Western creativity. However, its lukewarm reception testified to a change of attitude among art collectors, who criticized the Orientalist scenography and the mixing of artistic genres.

Cliquet pin, Cartier Paris, 1920
Platinum, onyx, diamonds, sapphires, coral. Vincent Wulveryck, Collection Cartier
© Cartier

The 1903 Exposition des arts musulmans, organized in response, was the first scientifically rigorous event of its kind. It was put together by a young Louvre curator, Gaston Migeon, who was well known amongst the critical group of enlightened art amateurs. With the support of the UCAD and a network of Parisian collectors, he compiled a rigorous selection of works of art, in stark contrast with the cheap Orientalism of previous events. His exhibition garnered unprecedented enthusiasm from the connoisseur, prompting Oriental art collector Georges Marteau to comment: “One’s eyes were not truly opened until 1903.” […]

One of the most significant early twentieth-century events that influenced the emerging discipline of Islamic art was held in Germany. Fully convinced of the importance of the field after the exhibition of 1903, a new department of Islamic art was established in the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin. In 1910, an unprecedented exhibition devoted to Islamic art was held in Munich, featuring 3,553 works from both institutional and private collections – French, in particular. The exhibits were arranged according to technique and geographical origins, and presented in a vast, white cube space as independent, self-sufficient works of art. The aims of the curators were to stimulate contemporary, artistic creativity, and to put Islamic art on a par with all other artistic productions and demonstrate its intrinsic value. The objects were used for an educational purpose, namely, to establish the history of Islamic art. […]


The House of Cartier, A Family Story

Portrait of Louis Cartier, Nadar’s studio, 1898
Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris
Photo © Ministère de la Culture – Médiathèque de l’architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Atelier de Nadar

In 1847 Louis-François Cartier (1819-1904) began his career as a jeweler alongside Adolphe Picard, whose atelier he bought out in 1847. With the business’ future in mind, Louis-François lost no time in training his son, Alfred (1841 – 1925), who became his business partner in 1872. Alfred had three sons: Louis (1875-1942), Pierre (1878-1964) and Jacques (1884- 1941). In 1898, 23-year-old Louis became his father’s partner and suggested Cartier move its premises to 13 rue de la Paix in 1899, at the center of the Parisian fashion and jewelry world. The same year they expanded, creating a designer’s studio and later, in 1929, a workshop. At the turn of the twentieth century, Cartier manufactured and sold jewelry, but also diverse objets d’art: Sèvres and Mennecy porcelain and other pieces (small paintings, frames, Indian or Renaissance jewels and Islamic works of art). The sale of antiques represented a considerable volume of Cartier’s business until 1914. In 1902, the year of King Edward VII’s coronation, Cartier opened a branch in London under the direction first of Pierre, then Jacques in 1906. Alfred opened a branch in New York City in 1909 that he left Pierre to manage, thus creating a truly international presence for the Maison. […]

Louis Cartier’s Islamic art collection

It is difficult to date the start of Louis Cartier’s personal collection of Islamic art because he regularly purchased “oriental” pieces for the Maison Cartier. However, the 1910 exhibition of Islamic art in Munich, as well as the abundance of works of Persian and Indian paintings on the Paris art market between 1906 and 1910, seem to have sparked an interest that he would maintain until his death.

Pen box said to have belonged to “Mirza Muhammad Munshi”, Deccan, India, late 16thearly 17th century
Carved walrus ivory, engraved and inlaid with gold, turquoise, black paste, and silk Ink well: copper alloy, gold leaf, and turquoise Musée du Louvre, Paris, département des Arts de l’Islam
Photo © Musée du Louvre, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Hervé Lewandowski

Louis Cartier loaned pieces to the 1912 exhibition of “Persian Miniatures” at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and to later exhibitions as well. His works were consistently exceptional both in their quality and pedigree- he owned numerous works made for royal Persian and Indian figures. His taste tended to favor manuscripts, paintings and inlaid objects from Iran and India from the sixteenth to seventeenth centuries. A discreet collector, Louis Cartier never published his collections and the works that he carefully collected throughout his life were dispersed after his death, most to the United States. Today his collection has been reunited, thanks to the archives of the Maison Cartier (stock books, invoices, glass plate negatives), and to the publications and catalogues of the exhibitions to which he was a lender. […]

The Lexicon of Forms

This second part of the exhibition is devoted to the lexicon or repertoire of forms inspired by Islamic art. Jewels and precious objects are organized according to this lexicon. Representative works of art from the collections of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs and the Musée du Louvre are offered as a means of providing context and comparison. Some of these works were exhibited in the first exhibitions devoted to the arts of Islam and may have been used by Cartier’s designers, or at the very least were familiar to them from the books held in Louis’ library.

  • Tiara, Cartier Paris, special order, 1912
    Platinum, rock crystal, diamonds. Marian Gérard. Cartier Collection
    © Cartier
  • Arabian no. 2, Owen Jones Grammaire de l’ornement, pl. 32 Day and Son, Ltd., London, 1865
    Cartier Paris Archives
    © Cartier

Photographs held in Cartier’s archives, as well as studies and designs, help to shed light on the sources of inspiration as well as the creative process. In the absence of certain jewels, modern prints made from negatives kept in the Cartier archives show the importance of certain patterns and give an idea of the trends of the day. From the early twentieth century, and until the early 1930s, under the direction of Louis Cartier who often worked with designer Charles Jacqueau, architecture, manuscripts and textiles were among the primary sources of inspiration, that gave birth to a number of characteristic motifs: the stepped merlon, brick patterns, mandorlas, çintamani motifs, finials, scrolls, boteh and cypress tree…

All-over patterns

Décoration arabe, Études de motifs décoratifs (détail), d’après la Grammaire de l’ornement de Jones, Cartier Paris, vers 1910[en]Studies of Arab art and Arab-style patterns, Owen Jones, Grammaire de l’ornement Cartier Paris, c. 1910
Graphite and India ink on tracing paper. Cartier Paris Archives
© Cartier

The use of repeated patterns creating an impression of infinity is frequent in Islamic art, notably in architectural decoration, floor coverings and textiles. These motifs were of particular interest to design theorists in the nineteenth century, who published repertoires of such ornaments with the aim of stimulating European industrial design. Some such patterns show a deep interest in and comprehension of geometric and mathematical principles. Owen Jones recorded infinite patterns copied from the tiled and stuccoed walls of the Alhambra Palace in Granada, just as Jules Bourgoin examined Mamluk architecture in Cairo and Damascus. Decontextualized from their origins, materials, and colors, these patterns were published in their most minimalist form.

Louis Cartier’s colors

Button, India, 18th century
Jade, gold, rubies, emeralds set in kundan. Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris
© MAD, Paris / Jean Tholance

From the 1910s onwards, the materials and colors of the Iranian world inspired Cartier creations, particularly in their use of unexpected color combinations, notably the combination of sapphires and emeralds called “peacock pattern.” Iranian turquoise is combined with deep blue speckled Afghanistan lapis-lazuli, reproducing a color combination often found in the glazed ceramic brickwork and tiles of central Asia.

India and the Jeanne Toussaint years

Hindu necklace, Cartier Paris, 1963
Platinum, gold, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies. Made as a special order for Daisy Fellowes in 1936, altered at the request of her daughter, the Countess of Castéja, in 1963. Nils Herrmann. Cartier Collection
© Cartier

In 1933, Louis Cartier left the artistic direction of the Paris branch to Jeanne Toussaint, with whom he had worked for several years. Until the 1970s, Toussaint followed the creative direction introduced by Louis Cartier, all the while bringing her own style and innovations. A collector of Indian jewelry, like some of her clients such as the interior designer Lady Mendl, Daisy Fellowes and actress Maria Félix, she encouraged the workshop to use all of the parts of a piece of Indian jewelry by unmounting it and remounting it with a different juxtaposition of elements. To the color schemes initiated in the 1910s, such as turquoise and lapis-lazuli, she added purple amethyst. Particularly fond of jewels with a three-dimensional aspect, she set en masse gemstones cut into beads, creating large necklaces with numerous strands of mixed stones. In the 1970s, the Maison reflected the mood of the hippie movement, creating long strand necklaces and Berber inspired pieces.

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