There is something so fluid and feline about the panther that even when cast in metal and gems, it prowls and purrs. Whether curled inside a watch, crouching on a sapphire, swinging from a necklace or whispering to its double round a finger, this creature evokes majesty and movement.
For a mesmerising encounter with the iconic Panthère de Cartier, visit Into the Wild, the French maison’s travelling installation now in Kuala Lumpur. Here, you can follow in the footsteps of this beautiful animal that has inspired jewellery for royalty and high society, home accessories, fine leather goods, eyewear and perfume bottles.
The immersive installation at Sentul Depot, open to the public until Sept 18, leads visitors through time, from when the Cartier panther first showed its spots on a women’s watch in 1914 to how it has evolved since. Sketches, authentic documents, photographs and videos from the brand’s archives showing its 108-year history with the emblematic icon are projected via 360° video mapping in various zones that beckon visitors to step into for a glittering journey of discovery.
One engaging stop is the office of Jeanne Toussaint, whom Louis Cartier called his “Petite Pantheré”. She was appointed the maison’s first female creative director in 1933. Through a portrait show voiced by actor Édouard Baer, visitors can get acquainted with the stylish and visionary Toussaint, whose sculptural and three-dimensional panther creations adorned queens and the elite across Europe and the US. During her years with Cartier, she revolutionised jewellery design, blending colour and daring ideas with a free spirit and femininity.
Another zone of the display shows that whatever form the Cartier panther takes — abstract, graphic or naturalist — it never stops reinventing itself. Its unique motifs are recognisable in pieces that sparkle with white gold, onyx, emeralds and pavé-set diamonds; are constructed using graphic lines; or which capture instinctive poses of the animal.
Behind every story of creativity lies craftsmanship, and at the signature savoir-faire zone, the camera pans to the artisans who bring Cartier’s design ideas to life — designers, sculptors, casters, jewellers, gemologists, gem cutters, setters and polishers. They talk about their labour of love, from shaping the body of the lithe creature to casting its jaw, tail and spots, and setting in its bright emerald eyes, the magnetic points of the panther. Each of them leaves an imprint on a single creation, “using techniques from the past in the present to create the high jewellery of the future”.
Into the Wild wraps up with Panthermania, a hall of fame featuring portraits of the Duchess of Windsor Wallis Simpson, Daisy Fellowes, Maria Carla Boscono, Chang Chen, Ella Balinska and Jisoo, among others — strong personalities who looked to the panther for inspiration and accessories that people cannot not take their eyes off.
Online registration is required for entry to the installation, on show at Atelier 3 of Sentul Depot, Jalan Strachan, KL. Click here to register.
This article first appeared on Sept 12, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.