This was one of '2 CHINESE RAILING CHINA-CASES WITH JAPAN'D TOPS' commissioned by Sir Hugh Smithson, Earl of Northumberland and later Duke of Northumberland, and inventoried in 1786 in Elizabeth Duchess of Northumberland's apartment at Northumberland House, London (information kindly supplied by Clare Baxter). The top of this window-pier commode serves to display a seventeenth century lacquer panel of birds and flowering shrubs; and this would have been cut from the top of a Japanese lacquer cabinet, that probably formed part of the furnishings of the Northumberland's London house or Syon Park, Middlesex.
Its fretted Chinese-railed and japanned frame relates to the 1750s furnishings supplied for Badminton House, Gloucestershire by William Linnell (d.1763) of Berkeley Square. Linnell was also patronised by the Duke of Northumberland and almost certainly supplied this cabinet, which was intended for the display of the Duchess' porcelain collection. From the remaining bills, Linnell is known to have supplied the Duke and Duchess with furnishings totalling over 1,000 (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell, London, 1980, vol 1, pls 5 and 5a, and vol 11, fig. 218).
Northumberland House, London, was aggrandised for the Northumberland's under the direction of Daniel Garrett and James Paine in the early 1750's.
Linnell is celebrated for providing fine japanned furniture for bedroom apartments in the 1750's. This included the embellishment in 1751 of an Italian cabinet, belonging to the Hon. James West, with dragons, 'jappaned' ornament and 'trellis work' (H. Hayward and P. Kirkham, William and John Linnell , London, 1980, vol. I, p. 149). He is also likely to have supplied the related china-case, japanned, bow-centred and enriched with 'trellis work', that was inventoried on the death of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, 5th Baronet and 1st Lord Scarsdale (d. 1805) as the 'Chinese cabinet with 44 pieces of china' (Hayward, ibid., vol. II, fig. 219).
A mahogany china-case, of similar bow-centre form and ribbon-fretted trellis, is likely to have been acquired when improvements were being carried out in the early 1750s at Ham House, Richmond by Lyonel, 4th Earl of Dysart (d. 1770). It was listed as a 'mahogany railed china stand' in the 1844 inventory (see Mrs. Charles Roundell, Ham House, London, 1904, vol. II, opposite p. 118 and P. Macquoid and R. Edwards, The Dictionary of English Furniture, London, 1924, vol. I, p. 167, fig. 35; sold anonymously Christie's New York, 14 April 1984, lot 151). The latter was also fitted with fretted doors in the manner of a 'China [commode] table' illustrated in Ince and Mayhew's The Universal System of Household Furniture, 1762, pl. XLVI.