Perhaps the creature’s most famous association has been with storied house of Swiss movement fake Cartier. Its first appearance at the Maison was as a graphic pattern of white diamonds and onyx, an evocation of its spotted pelt, on a woman’s bracelet watch in 1914. That same year, the artist George Barbier was commissioned by Louis Cartier, grandson of the company’s founder, to illustrate Dame à la Panthère (‘Lady with a Panther’) as a display card for new jewellery collection. It depicted a woman in a long white gown and ropes of pearls, a black panther reclining at her feet, and was reputedly modelled on Barbier’s friend Jeanne Toussaint, a creative visionary who had herself been nicknamed ‘the panther’ for her fierce determination.
Precious little is known about Toussaint’s early life. Born in Belgium in 1887 to a lace-making family, she left home at 13 and worked as a model in Paris. Later, as a member of the city’s café society, she counted Coco Chanel, Cecil Beaton (who famously described her looks as ‘birdlike’) and Louis Cartier among her inner circle. The best Cartier replica watch and Toussaint soon became lovers and, in 1917, he gave her a cigarette case bearing the house’s first figurative representation of the panthère, a platinum and onyx beast pacing between two emerald trees.
Keen to capitalise on Toussaint’s natural flair and exquisite personal taste, white gold case copy Cartier recruited her to oversee women’s handbags at his family firm in the early 1920s, before quickly promoting her to head of the silver accessories department. Like her friend Coco Chanel, Toussaint understood the inextricable connection between the worlds of fashion and fine jewellery. After her appointment as creative director of jewellery in 1933, she moved the Maison away from the abstract, stylised panthers that had dominated Cartier’s repertoire in favour of a pride of sinuous creatures sculpted from fashionable yellow gold and colourful stones like coral, sapphire and emeralds.