This Chinese Export lacquer coffer is a legacy of the early 18th Century trading activities of the East India company. In view of the FitzHerbert family's strong dynastic links and their considerable financial interests in Jamaica and Barbados, they would have had significant influence and contacts within the East India Company.
The inspiration may well have come from Sir William FitzHerbert's friends and neighbours, the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire at Chatsworth. Exotic wares and goods from the Orient played an important role in the furnishing of the Cavendish family's palatial Derbyshire home from as early as 1697, when Celia Fiennes' (d. 1742) diary records the colourful lacquer introduced to Duchess Mary's mirrored and porcelain-decked apartment by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Devonshire (d. 1707). This 'japan closet' or room was subsequently remade under the 2nd Duke - with a closely related pair of coffers-on-stands, still at Chatsworth, constructed from the lacquer panels. These are recorded in the 1764 Chatsworth inventory drawn up on the death of William, 4th Duke of Devonshire - alongside numerous references to "One India old Japan'd [lacquer] Chest on a Gilt Frame", "two India old Japan Chestes", and "Two Blue and White China Jarr" below "two India Cabinets".
A related pair of coffers was ordered from China by Sir Francis Wyndham, Bt. of Trent, Somerset, proudly bearing the Wyndham coat-of-arms. Wyndham, M.P. for Cambridge from 1727 to 1741, was elevated as Lord Montfort, Baron of Horseheath and the coffers ultimately came to Adare Manor, Co. Limerick, Ireland through the marriage in 1810 of Caroline Wyndham to Windham Quin, later 2nd Earl of Dunraven. A further related coffer-on-stand in the collection of the Earls of Verulam, Gorhambury, Hertfordshire is illustrated in M. Jourdain and R.S. Jenyns, Chinese Export Art in the Eighteenth Century, Middlesex, 1985, p. 86, fig. 26.