the oracle of the “reptile” style according to Cartier
“They admired my beauty and intelligence, I was only a woman with the heart of a man. A warrior.” María Félix
One of Cartier’s faithful customers, a character of legend and cinema whose wild beauty was depicted to perfection in black and white, her appearances enflamed both hearts and imaginations. With glowing eyes, jet-black hair, lips outlined in red and the longest hands, she did everything with passion. A lover of love, at 28, she was the most famous Latin-American actress in the world.
A stage entrance in Cartier for a star
Jack Pallance, Curd Jurgens, Gérard Philippe, Yves Montand, Jean Gabin… she played with the greatest actors and directors, from Renoir to Bunuel, in the same way that she played in life. An animal seductress, whose burning exoticism conquered Mexico, Argentina and then Paris, its poets and artists, like Jean Cocteau and Léonor Fini, used her as a muse for their works. An unrivalled Parisian, her appearances at the race courses
made headline news, with articles on her style, coloured boots, huge capes, and printed silk frocks, as well as her jewellery, signed by Cartier, naturally. Bracelets, necklaces, hoop earrings… those famous earrings, sumptuous gold and coral shells, were de signed specially for her by Jeanne Toussaint. The actress wanted them to be gorgeous, light, comfortable and very big, thus making Cartier think up a special way of attaching them to the inside of the ear.
A friendship was born between the actress and Cartier.
Masculine feminine, Cartier’s style measures up to a diva’s dreams
María Félix transcended and dramatised her life and found more than just an echo or an answer in Cartier’s style. Her strong personality and her masculine cum feminine style, mirrored in pure lines and larger-than-life jewellery, found a match in the famous jeweller’s de signs. Like the renowned millionaire Barbara Hutton or the Duchess of Windsor, other famous Cartier customers, María Félix wanted to be the mistress of her own destiny. “They admired my beauty and intelligence, I was only a woman with the heart of a man. A warrior.”
This strength and sensuality drew her to Cartier whose de signs were created using a similar force. She remained a loyal customer and success followed success. This artistic and exceptional collaboration reached its peak in 1968 when Cartier delivered her a snake necklace, now classed as a work of art. It was completely articulated, a succession of scales, diamonds, and red, green and black enamel set in platinum, glowing with presence and life, which took Cartier two years to achieve. This incredible jewel was delivered to her in Mexico on her birthday by her friend André Denet, who was then director of the boutique in the Rue de la Paix. Supple and flexible, its incredibly fluidity was due to an aeronautic alpin system which Cartier reworked in miniature.
Posterity for the future
The home of this half-Indian, half-Spanish star, known for her spectacular jewellery, boasted a flamboyant baroque-style interior, with swan-neck taps and all-gold scales in her bathroom, a whim which she asked Cartier to create. Her taste was for the tailormade product, the nonconformist object that suddenly transformed everyday articles into extremely precious items.
Her true accomplice, Cartier took such pride in the diva’s fantastical jewellery that years later, the jeweller purchased them to include them in the Collection Cartier. Special features of the Cartier heritage, like Gloria Swanson’s crystal bracelets or
Barbara Hutton’s tigers, they are now part of a historic collection displayed in the greatest museums around the world. In 1999 at the Muséo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico, María Félix, the guest of honour at the exhibition Resplendor del tiempo, took part, visibly touched, in the spectacular staging of her animals.
Following in the wake of the Duchess of Windsor, Daisy Fellowes, Elisabeth Taylor or Jacqueline Delubac, María Félix was one of those women who invented their own style, with María leaving her famous look in the hands of Cartier.
The crocodile, the star’s iconic talisman
“Her animals”; this is what she called her bejewelled mascots which were part of her animal collection, including the crocodile which remained her iconic talisman, a sacred reptile in Egypt, and the symbol of death and rebirth for the Aztecs. She wore it around her neck, and had a double of this extravagant necklace made by Cartier in 1975. A work larger than life was drawn, created and set based on the original, when the star visited Cartier along with a live baby crocodile in a jar and insisted that a miniature jewelled version of the reptile be made as quickly as possible, as the original never stopped growing! Cartier rose to the occasion-it was not the master of the largest jewellery animal collection for nothing-and shaped María’s dreams in the form of a beast lying in wait. Head, tail, and feet were articulated, its eyes glowed with life, with 1,023 jonquille diamonds for one and 1,066 emeralds for the other. She loved it and wore it as a symbol of exuberance and freedom, representing elegance pushed to its limits, and accompanied by a red cape and black sombrero.