The earliest known surviving jewel from Cartier,
in its original fitted case, imprinted Cartier-Gillion in the lid satin.
Louis-Francois Cartier purchased the lease and existing stock of Gillion in 1859. The demi-parure within by Eugène Fontenay consists of a pendant locket and earrings en suite each centred with an oval painted enamelled panel by Eugène Richet representing a female figure shown to be devoted to the arts. That in the locket is seated holding a palette of colours in one hand and a brush in the other, adorning a carved head poised on a plinth, consistent with the Classical tradition of painting sculpture as well as architectural elements. The female figure represented in one of the earrings holds a vase of terracotta representing the art of ceramics, while the other plays a pipe symbolic of the musical arts.
Each panel is bordered with diamonds within a gold frame applied with twisted wirework circular forms centered with a bead, the earrings further suspended from stylised volutes and a circular disc applied with similar motifs.
The scenes represented in Richet’s enamels are inspired by wall paintings found in the recently excavated archaeological sites of Pompei and Herculaneum, the background colours invariably black or pastel blue and echoing the palette of the wall paintings, the use of painted opaque enamel further echoing the matt texture of the originals.
A pin fitting allows the locket to be worn as a brooch, while a flexible gold chain encircling the demi-parure is accommodated within the red velvet pad in the base of the box, enabling the locket to be worn as a pendant.
Contained in its original fitted red silk case, the satin gold stamped ‘Cartier-Gillion/Joaillier Bijoutier/Paris/9 Bould. Des Italiens/ Breveté de S.A.I. la Psse Mathilde’.
Paris, c. 1865
The address in the lid satin refers to the premises occupied from 1859 until 1899, before the move to 13 rue de la Paix.
Louis François Cartier took over the business of his former employer Adolphe Picard In 1847, and moved it from 29 rue Montorgueil to 5 rue Neuve des Petits Champs in 1853.
An early account book in the Cartier archives reveals that in February 1859, for the sum of 40,000 francs, Louis François Cartier purchased both the lease and existing stock of Gillion at 9 Boulevard des Italiens. By this time he had attracted the Countess of Nieuwerkerke as a customer, whose husband’s friendship with the Princesse Mathilde would be instrumental in achieving his long-standing ambition of receiving a first commission from the Empress Eugénie…namely a silver tea service in 1859.
No ledgers from Gillion survive, nevertheless a fascinating design scrapbook in the Cartier archives (acquired by Jeanne Toussaint in 1938) contains coloured versions of items sketched in the stock books during that period. Among the designs are a handful that bear a stamp incorporating the names of both Cartier and Gillion, describing the firm as Bijoutier-Orfèvre and suggesting the two firms continued to be associated after 1859.
This is borne out by the fact that the demi-parure was probably made after 1862, since it was the celebrated Campana collection’s arrival at the Louvre in 1861 and its public exhibition in 1862, that provided the motifs that inspired Fontenay’s jewels. The stock books demonstrate that Fontenay was amongst the earliest suppliers of jewellery to the firm, since he supplied a Greek style meander pattern necklace decorated with black enamel in 1859. Fontenay proved to be one of the most enduring suppliers, continuing throughout the 1870’s since the stock books contain a sketch of a ‘collier étrusque’ in matt gold with filigree inspired by antiquity as late as 1876.
It is evident from the stock books that quite apart from Fontenay, a wide range of manufacturers was supplying the combined firm of Cartier-Gillion from the 1860’s onwards. Acting primarily as a retailer of jewellery and objets d’art, works by Rouvenat, Crouzet, Robin, Fossin, Froment Meurice, Falize, and Boucheron featured amongst its stock. Alphonse Fouquet was supplying the firm during the 1870’s, as various designs of bracelets testify.
The chain maker Auguste Lion, who developed flexible springy gold chains in the form of flat plaited bands or spiral coils, was another supplier to the firm; several of his models are carefully drawn out in the stock book of 1869.
The chain accompanying the demi-parure seems very much inspired by Lion’s own examples, at least one of which was patented in 1865. This chain bears the mark of Simon Fournier, working during the same period, his mark being registered in 1867 and deleted in 1880. The chain can also be separated into two bracelets.
Jewellery by Fontenay has been identified in the original fitted cases of other firms such as Tiffany and Co. and Boucheron. A necklace decorated with such enamelled plaques by Richet in an original Boucheron case forms part of collection of jewellery housed in the British Museum.
This is to date the only known example of a Cartier-Gillion case representing the earliest manifestation of this celebrated firm.