The 18th century taste for ormolu-mounted porcelains and marbles among those with the taste, means and inclination culminated in a search for the rarest and most exquisite examples. Louis-Marie-Augustin, fith duc d'Aumont (1709-1782), who had previously held his family's hereditary position as premier gentilhomme de la chambre for the King, set up a workshop in 1770 at the Hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs to cut and polish precious marbles and embellish them with gilt-bronze mounts, under the direction of the architect François-Joseph Belanger and the Italian stone-cutter Augustin Bocciardi. The duc focused on marbles that hadn't been mined since antiquity, when the Romans had gathered stones from all corners of their vast empire, particularly the North African provinces. The porphyry used in these sophisticated vases has been prized since antiquity for its lustrous color and remarkable hardness. The lion-mask handles are closely related to those used by the Parisian marchand-merciers on Sèvres porcelain, such as a garniture from the Sir Arthur Gilbert collection sold Christie's, New York, 21 October 2005, lot 331.