The fashion for chinoiserie dates to the mid seventeenth century after the restoration of Charles II, when trade with the Far East flourished, instilling a newfound fashion for Chinese lacquer screens, cabinets and chests. To satisfy this demand, English and Continental cabinetmakers developed 'japanning' in imitation of true Asian lacquer. European artists found inspiration in contemporary images of Asia such as those engraved and published by the Dutch East Indies Company, while John Stalker and George Parker's A Treatise on Japanning and Varnishing (1688) provided instruction and a 'Hundred distinct Patterns for Japan-work’ for professional craftsmen and amateur practitioners.
Based on similar examples, it is likely that this cabinet was made by the workshop of John Belchier (d. 1753) of 'The Sun' in St. Paul's Churchyard, London, who is first recorded working in 1717. Other cabinets bearing his label feature doors with similar compartmental vignettes on a patterned ground include a green-ground example (see C. Gilbert, ed., Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, 1996, p. 82, figs. 57-59) and a scarlet pedimented example from the Plydell-Bouverie family, sold Sotheby's, London, 30 November 2001, lot 160 (£113,500). Two japanned cabinets supplied by Belchier for Erddig Castle, Wales were described in 1732 as being 'in ye grandst manner and after ye newest fashion'. One of these, a 'Red Japan Cabinet', listed in the 'Blew Mohair' bedroom in the 1726 inventory, features similar arch-headed and mirrored doors and fitted interior (M. Drury, 'Early Eighteenth-Century Furniture at Erddig', Apollo, July 1978, p. 52, pl. II). More recently a green-ground example was sold Christie’s, New York, 18-19 April 2012, lot 53 ($302,500). The current lot is a particularly well-preserved example, retaining its original decoration in a largely un-restored condition.