This rare and charming ormolu-mounted Japanese perfume-burner is exemplary of the unique creative involvement of the marchands-merciers in 18th century Paris, an industry discussed in depth by Carolyn Sargentson in Merchants and Luxury Markets: The Marchands Merciers of Eighteenth Century Paris, London, 1996. This brilliant assemblage represents the innovation of design and combination of materials which the marchands were uniquely allowed to execute. Guild regulations strictly prohibited production by the marchands-merciers and limited them only to the sale, embellishment or finishing of goods.
According to Sargentson, Japanese and Chinese porcelains were distinguished from one another in most inventories of the 1720's and 30's, and the marchand Thomas-Joachim Hébert stocked a particularly large proportion of the more valuable Japanese porcelain. In addition to the relative scarcity of Japanese porcelain, according to Hébert's 1724 inventory, Chinese porcelain was on average less highly valued. Japanese objects were valued at an average of 12 livres each, and Chinese objects at an average of 8 livres each. (C. Sargentson, op. cit., pp. 70-72).