Jeweler’s journey through artistic trends of the past

The Prague Post

Cartier’s exhibition links gems to the personalities who used to wear them

Power. It’s a strong word conjuring up images of strength, authority and dominance to name a few. But can elegance and fashion exude power?

The answer is yes, according to a new exhibition at the Prague Castle’s Riding Hall, “Cartier at Prague Castle: The Power of Style.”

“This will be a beautiful journey,” said Pascal Lepeu, curator of the Cartier Collection. “This will be the biggest exhibition ever, with 368 items, and many are being exhibited for the first time.”

Cartier has an immense collection of its wares and exhibits them around the world. It works with local curators to make each show different. In Prague, the vision was supplied by Eva Eisler, a lecturer at the Prague Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design.

“Slowly, I began to understand that the most precious value of each jewel is not the noble materials and master craftsmanship, but especially catching stories of the subjects themselves,” Eisler said. “The design of jewels anticipates and mirrors the history of their birth and the stories of their owners, full of dreams, success and personal emotions.”

“The Power of Style” is a far-ranging exhibit, focusing on the various trends at Cartier through the past century as well as examining different aspects of power: from the power of seductive woman to the power of creativity. Eisler chose to not only display by chronology, but also aesthetic or stylistic similarities.

“We’ll display an immense variety of jewels, objects and watches,” Lepeu said. “There will be lots of styles: Art Deco, Egyptian, Oriental, the 1930s and pieces made after World War II.”

Emphasis is placed on Cartier’s different stylistic periods cumulating in a retrospective of art over the past 160 years. Changes in style and taste through the decades can be seen. For example, after King Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered in 1922, Egyptian motifs became all the rage. The exhibit also looks at some of the personalities Cartier created for.

“[On display is] the Duchess of Windsor brooch. The jewels were chosen to express personality; it’s very elegant,” said Lepeu. “Also, the María Félix necklace; you can see how interesting it is for Cartier to create jewels for such interesting women.”

Félix, a Mexican actress and jewelry collector, requested that Cartier create a snake necklace for her. The piece comprises more than 2,400 diamonds, is nearly 60 centimeters long and weighs 600 grams. The back is lined with red, green and black enamel to avoid scratching the neck and lends a sense of movement. There’s also an example of the many tiaras Cartier has created. In true 1920s flapper style, artisans designed a bandeau for Queen Elisabeth of Belgium.

Cartier’s pieces were designed to fit the mood of the times, creatively combining shapes, gems, materials and colors. The exhibition is a journey through 100 years of art, architecture and history.

In 1969, Cartier created three solid gold miniatures of the lunar module Apollo 11 that were presented to American astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins. And don’t miss Lepeu’s favorite: the “mystery” clocks.

“When you see them, you can’t see how the hands are linked. It’s like they are floating in the air,” she said. “They are beautiful creations.”

She added that a number of delicate objects made from coral; jade and other materials are also on display, as well as sketches and plaster molds for a glimpse into the grunt work of jewelry design. The display cases were designed by another local, glass designer Rony Plesl.

Cartier spends two to three years planning each exhibition, and Lepeu has worked on the Prague version since 2007. She said they are pleased to be back in Europe, as last year’s four exhibitions were in Asia and the United States. About 600,000 people attended those, and hopes are high for a big turnout here as well.

“Prague came naturally. It’s a beautiful, historical and cultural capital,” she said. “Prague Castle is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We’ve been in prestigious locations like the Kremlin in Moscow and last year in the Forbidden City, so it was evident to go to Prague Castle.”