Several of Gouthière’s masterpieces were commissioned by Louise-Jeanne de Durfort, the Duchess of Mazarin. An enthusiastic and faithful client, the duchess was the daughter-in-law of the Duke of Aumont and heiress to the vast Mazarin fortune. Most of the objects made for her — including the side table in blue turquin marble, the pair of wall lights with poppies, and the pair of firedogs with eagles on display in the exhibition — were intended for the gallery-salon of her townhouse, or hôtel particulier (since destroyed and now the site of the École des Beaux-Arts), on the Quai Malaquais in Paris.
The duchess initiated the renovation of the salon in 1778. The design was entrusted to the architect François-Joseph Bélanger, who delegated oversight of the work to the architect Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin. Gouthière was hired to put the finishing touches on these sumptuous interiors.
Extending across the building from courtyard to garden, each side of this long salon was to have at its center an element made of blue turquin marble, supplied and carved by the marblecutter Jacques Adan and decorated with gilt bronzes by Gouthière. On one long side, placed under a mirrored overmantel, was the blue turquin marble table; opposite was a chimneypiece decorated with satyresses. On the shorter sides, between windows, were two pedestals, each topped with a large candelabrum. The table and the chimneypiece were originally to be flanked by Gobelins tapestries, four panels in total, drawn from the Theatrical Scenes, made after cartoons by Charles Coypel (illustrated here).
What should have been a godsend for Gouthière became a nightmare because the Duchess of Mazarin was not timely in paying her bills. Her death, on March 17, 1781, left Gouthière with two outstanding invoices he assessed at 101,000 livres, an enormous sum considering that the hôtel particulier itself was sold for 420,000 livres. Six years later, when Gouthière was forced to surrender his assets to his creditors, he estimated the total of his invoices for work supplied but not yet paid for at 97,243 livres, of which he had only received 12,000 livres from the duchess or her estate.
Jean-Démosthène Dugourc (François-Joseph Bélanger’s architectural firm), Project for the gallery-salon of the Duchess of Mazarin’s hôtel particulier, showing the wall with the chimneypiece and the location of two of the four panels of Gobelins tapestry commissioned in 1771 but not installed until 1776 (the chimneypiece does not correspond to the model commissioned in 1780), ca. 1777. Ink and watercolor on paper, 16 3⁄ 8 x 20 7⁄ 8 in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (above left)
Jean-Démosthène Dugourc, Project for the gallery-salon of the Duchess of Mazarin’s hôtel particulier showing the wall between the windows with two candelabra and a clock on a pedestal (the pedestal does not correspond to the model commissioned in 1780), 1777. Ink and watercolor on paper, 16 3⁄ 8 x 18 in. Private collection (above right)