James de Pourtalès was born into a French Huguenot family that had emigrated to Switzerland, where he was born in Neuchâtel in 1776. His father, Jacques-Louis de Pourtalès, had amassed considerable wealth through commerce and industry, and had been made a count by Frederick William II of Prussia. James de Pourtalès acquired the seigneury of Gorgier in 1813, adding this to the family name. The art collection that he acquired over many years numbered over a thousand items, and was first displayed in a mansion in the Place Vendôme, Paris. Later it was housed in the hôtel he had built by Félix-Jacques Duban at 7, Rue Tronchet. Constructed in an eclectic style in which Florentine influences from the 15th century predominate, the hôtel housed an Etruscan collection, paintings, drawings, sculpture, Greek and Roman antiquities, European and Indian ivories, enamels, Murano glass, carved crystals, engraved gems, Japanese lacquer, Chinese bronzes, armor. Although the collection was not available to the public, Pourtalès-Gorgier permitted critics, artists, and other private visitors to view it. The collections were dispersed at auction in Paris in early 1865.
Michaud. Biographie Universelle. vol. 34: 231.
Boime, Albert. "Entrepreneurial Patronage in Nineteenth Century France" in Enterprise and Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century France. Ed. by Edward C. Carter II et al. Baltimore, 1976: 148+.
Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 25:383-384.