Gouthière produced some of his masterpieces for Louis-Marie-Augustin, the Duke of Aumont. The duke directed the Menus-Plaisirs et Affaires de la Chambre du Roi, an administrative body of the king’s household that managed the monarch’s personal effects and organized his entertainment, creating sets for theatrical productions and significant occasions such as marriages and funerals. The artists employed by the Menus-Plaisirs were free to develop new ideas without constraint, and their workshops were the locus for the forging of new fashions. Aumont employed several of these artists (including Gouthière) to create objects for his personal cabinet of curiosities, which was renowned for its exquisite antique marbles, mounted porphyry, Asian porcelain, and gilt bronze. These were all intended for his opulent hôtel particulier on the Place Louis XV in Paris (now the Hôtel Crillon, Place de la Concorde).
Gouthière worked for Aumont for around ten years, beginning about 1770. For his enthusiastic and wealthy patron, he created unique objects after designs by the duke’s favorite architect, François-Joseph Bélanger (also from the Menus-Plaisirs), whose brother-in-law, the talented designer Jean-Démosthène Dugourc, directed and oversaw their production.
Following Aumont’s death in 1782, his collections were sold at auction. The auction catalogue specifies that “all the works [by Gouthière] are indicated at the ends of the entries by the initial letter G.” In total, there were fifty-five objects in thirty-four lots, most of which were bought for Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The king paid high prices for the finest pieces, which were destined for the Muséum du Louvre (now the Musée du Louvre), and the queen did likewise to furnish her private apartments.
Many pieces made by Gouthière for Aumont have been lost or have not yet been identified. With the exception of an incense burner at the Wallace Collection, London, the known pieces are reunited here for the first time since 1782.
Vase (detail). Gilt bronze by Pierre Gouthière, green Greek porphyry, possibly carved by Augustin Bocciardi or Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Delaplanche. After a design by François-Joseph Bélanger, ca. 1775−80. 15 × 13⅜ × 11 inches. Musée du Louvre, Paris; photo: RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY