These engraved ivory bureau-cabinets, serving as portable desk jewel-cases and dressing-boxes, are each designed as a miniature 'desk and bookcase'. Engraved tablets, wreathed by floral 'chintz' fashioned borders, portray magnificent villa landscapes that would harmonise with the Georgian reception dressing apartments that were hung with landscape prints. English Roman-style architecture from Colen Campbell's much reprinted Vitruvius Britannicus (published in several volumes from 1715) featured alongside views from the Haarlem publication, Her Zegepralent Kennemerlant, 1729, on a cabinet from the collection of a Governor of the Dutch Cape Colony (A. Jaffer Luxury Goods from India, 2002, p. 80); while scenes from R. and J. Dodsley's, London and Its Environs Described, 1761, appear on another related cabinet at Arundel Castle, Sussex, which is engraved with an image of Old Montagu House by J. Green after watercolours by Samuel Wale (c.1721-86) (ibid., pp. 71-72, no. 29).
Two related cabinets, from the estate of Alexander Wynch, a former East India Company Governor of Fort St. George, were acquired in the 1770s by George III (A. Jaffer, Furniture from British India and Ceylon, London, 2001, p. 202). A cabinet on loan to the Victoria & Albert Museum features feet engraved with similar fantastical lions to the present lot (ibid., pp. 80-81, no. 33). A related bureau-cabinet with tiger-decorated feet was sold by Robert H. Metzger, Sotheby's, New York, 27 October 1995, lot 184. The closest comparable to the present lot, however, is a near pair of engraved ivory small bureau-cabinets, almost certainly supplied to General Sir John Dalling, 1st Bt. (c. 1731-1798) whilst Commander-in-Chief in Madras circa 1786 and by family descent, sold anonymously, Christie's, London 'Arts of India', London, 23 September 2005, lot 121 (£78,000). The latter cabinets had been raised on black and gilt stands made for them in the early 19th century. The fantastical beast heads on the feet are similar to those seen on the mid-18th century ivory-veneered chairs that were acquired by Queen Charlotte when sold in 1781 at auction (by James Christie) by the late Alexander Wynch. A set of six chairs with fantastical beast heads is in the Gerstenfeld Collection (see E. Lennox-Boyd, ed., The Gerstenfeld Collection, London, 1998, p. 223, no. 63). See also the following lot in this sale.