- Harry Fane
It’s rare to find ‘sets’ of items by Cartier from ‘back in the day’. Probably the most famous set is the ex-Maharaja of Patiala’s extraordinary mirror dressing table set. Yes, there are other dressing table sets with bottles and brushes etc but otherwise ‘sets’ are rare. This made the desk set (sold at Bonhams, LA last week for around $110,000) so interesting. Comprising five pieces including an inkwell and two boxes, a letter rack and a blotter. I personally have never seen a Cartier blotter before, and the letter rack is a very rare find. The overall design was pure 1930s Art Deco elegance. I could see it in Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood bungalow. I don’t know why I envision it placed upon a woman’s desk, but the colour combination seems somewhat feminine. The mixture of green and blue was very much a vintage Cartier trademark colour combination which we can trace back to the early years of the 20th Century when Cartier was making Faberge style enamel items and green and blue were favourite colours. In this desk set, the green was aventurine quartz, not jade as catalogued, and the blue was a mosaic of lapis lazuli slices. There are also some small black onyx elements that serve to enhance the Art Deco aesthetic. Here we can see Cartier modulating the materials they used to reduce the costs of the pieces they were making. In the heyday of the 1920s, this would have been made using nephrite and solid blocks of lapis lazuli which were much more expensive than the small chips. This piece was made in the early 1930s in the post-Depression years and Cartier was extremely adept at making things which were supremely well designed but executed in less valuable materials. The overall effect was just as good which this desk set proves. I wonder where it will end up now.