Panthères and Leopards: Capturing the Wild in Art

The “Cartierand America” exhibit is currently at the California Palace of theLegion of Honor. Of the many bestiary designs created by theFrench jeweler perhaps the most iconic is the leopard. The Panthère broochwas created for American Wallis Simpson in the 1940's. Itsinspiration was Jeanne Toussaint who was photographed in 1920by Adolph de Meyer. Toussaint who had been employed byCartier since 1907 was made Director of High Jewelry in 1933. Shewas nicknamed panthère by Louis Cartier because of her elegantstyle and independent nature. This jewelry collection that followed wasnot the first Gallic fascination with the large feline. Naturalist andauthor Georges Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon (1707–1788) depicted theleopard in his Histoire Naturelle,générale et particulière, a comprehensive study of flora and fauna. Buffon was appointed to head the Parisian Jardin du Roi in 1739. He wasresponsible for its expansion and the acquisition of botanical and zoologicalsamples. Antoine-Louis Barye (1795-1875) animalier sculptor and painterwas particularly known for his studies of wild cats and leopards that he did atthe Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes formerly the Jarden du Roi.