The fashion for urns, columns and objets de luxe of granite, porphyry and other hardstones reached its apogee in the late 18th Century. Foremost amongst the collectors, apart from Marie-Antoinette and Louis XVI, was the celebrated amateur Louis-Marie-Augustin, 5th duc d'Aumont (d.1782), who established ateliers specialising in the use of hardstones within the hôtel des Menus-Plaisirs on the rue du Faubourg-Poissonière. Under d'Aumont's patronage, François-Joseph Belanger (d.1818) was engaged as architect-designer, the ciseleur-doreur Pierre Gouthière was commissioned to supply the gilt-bronze mounts and the Genoese sculptor Augustin Bocciardi was employed for cutting and polishing the stones.
The sale of the duc's collection following his death in 1782 lasted no less than nine consecutive days and included a number of objects in porphyry and other hard stones, a large proportion of which were bought by Louis XVI and are now in the Musée du Louvre. Indeed, Louis XVI himself had already established quarries in the Vosges mountains specialising in the cutting and working of hard stones and these 'Manufactures privilégiées du Roi' sold them through a 'Magasin ou dépôt des Ouvrages en roches, composées de granits, granitelles, jaspes, serpentins et porphyres' in Paris.
A virtually identical pair of granite urns were sold in these Rooms, 12 December 1996, lot 174 (£69,700).