This superb, jewel-like tazza, with delicate grape vines wrapped around the richly figured jasper bowl, reflects the passion for hardstones in the 1770's and 1780's of connoisseur collectors such as the duc d'Aumont and, subsequently, Marie-Antoinette. Its design shares much with the oeuvre of Jean-Demosthène Dugourc (1749 - 1825), who was appointed dessinateur du Garde-Meuble de la Couronne, and signed a design for a related ormolu-mounted hardstone bowl with octagonal base and foliate scroll feet, which is now in the Royal Ontario Museum (H. Creel Collinson, Documenting Design, Toronto, 1993, p. 94, no. 44). Dated 1784, as an inscription on the latter reveals, the drawing was supplied to the goldsmith and jouallier du Roi Ange-Joseph Aubert (1736 - 1785).
Such precious hardstone-mounted pieces, reminiscent of Renaissance Schatzkammer objects, enjoyed a revived popularity at the end of the 18th century through the impetus of both the marchands-merciers and, more importantly, the hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs, where the duc d'Aumont himself established a workshop in 1770 specialising in the cutting and polishing of precious hardstones. This celebrated atelier employed the influential architect François-Joseph Belanger (1744 - 1818) as designer, Pierre Gouthière (1732 - 1813) as ciseleur-doreur, Augustin Bocciardi (active 1760 - 1790) as sculpteur and Guillemain for giving the hardstones a 'polis ferme et brillant'. Indeed, the superbly detailed mounts of this tazza are comparable to the work of Gouthière, who was Marie Antoinette's favourite bronzier and one of the elite artisans to be named in contemporary catalogues- for example all of the lots in the famous 1782 sale of the duc d'Aumont's collection with mounts by Gouthière were proudly identified with the letter 'G'. Gouthière perfected the most expensive type of gilding of this period, 'dorure au mat', which involved particularly lavish amounts of gold to create a rich, deep matte finish which can be seen particularly on the vine leaves of this tazza.
At the very end of the 18th Century, the duc d'Aumont's legacy was in turn taken up by designers such as Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746 - 1810), who supplied objects of this nature to William Beckford at Fonthill.
A very closely related bowl from the Alexander Collection was sold at Christie's, New York, 30 April 1999, lot 24.