This fanciful cabinet, with its tiers of pagodas and fretwork, reflects Europe’s enduring passion for the Orient. It was intended for the display of Chinese porcelain and relates to designs for ‘China Cases’ and ‘China Shelves” seen in pattern books such as Thomas Chippendale’s The Gentleman and Cabinet-Maker's Director (1754) and John Mayhew and William Ince’s The Universal System of Household Furniture, (1762). While cabinets of similar form appear in mahogany and japanning, such as one sold in the Collection of Richard Mellon Scaife, Christie’s, New York 30 June-1 July 2015, lot 12 ($43,750), the use of padouk wood provides a further exotic flair. It is possible that the display stand was made by Yorkshire cabinet makers Wright and Elwick, Director-inspired design and resemblance to other fret-filled furniture attributed to them, such as the Marchioness of Rockingham's Cabinet, sold from Wentworth, Christie's, London, 8 July 1998, lot 35 (£507,500).
A letter from Frank Partridge to Leonard Cohn in 1932 states that, according to the collector from whom he had acquired the piece, it had been in the collection of the “Ladies of Llangollen,” Lady Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby of Llangollen, Wales. Their cottage, Plas Newydd, was known for its elaborate interiors and was visited by many members of the aristocracy, including the Duke of Wellington, and the literary world. When Sir Walter Scott visited in August 1825, one of Scott’s party described: ‘the prints, the dogs, the cats, the miniatures, the cram of the cabinets, clocks, glass-cases, books, bijouterie, dragon-china, nodding mandarins, and whirligigs of every shape and hue – the house outside and in…covered with carved oak’ (C. Wainwright, The Romantic Interior, New Haven, 1989, p. 273). The contents were sold at auction by George Robins in August 1832 after the death of Ms. Ponsonby. The stand does not appear in the sale unless it is one of the ‘two mahogany WHAT-NOTS’ listed in the Library (lot 17).