The bureau-cabinet, with antique fluted and acanthus-wrapped cornice, is embellished in the Roman fashion with poetic enrichments. Its palm-flowered medallion mirror is hung from a bowed ribbon and wreathed in laurels, while Apollo pearl-wreathed sunflowers embellishing the bureau's quatrefoiled compartments evokes the Sun and Poetry deity's temple engraved in R. Woods, Ruins of the Temple of Palmyra, 1753.
The Etruscan or Columbarium vase style of the 1770s promoted by the Rome-trained architect Robert Adam (d.1792) is evoked by the cornice's sacred urns issuing from wave-scrolled tendrils of Roman acanthus and relates to the ornamental patterns engraved in 1779 by Thomas Chippendale Junior (C. Gilbert, The Life and Work of Thomas Chippendale, London, 1978, figs. 282 and 33). His father had included a pattern for a related tripartite and mirrored bookcase cabinet in his, Gentleman and Cabinet-Makers Director, 1754 (pl.78), and ten years later had supplied one such tripartite and medallion-mirrored cabinet on fall-front desk for Aske Hall, Yorkshire (Gilbert, ibid, figs 86 and 87).
The present cabinet can also be related to an urn-capped cabinet supplied by the Chippendale firm of St. Martins Lane for the Hampton villa of the actor David Garrick. The design for the mirrored and sunflowered doors of the latter, which incorporated a press-bed, derived from Adam's design of 1771 for a palm-flowered bureau-dressing-cabinet for the Arlington Street mansion of Sir George Colebrooke, Bart. (see M. Tomlin, Catalogue of Adam Period Furniture, London, 1982, no. O/1; and E. Harris, The Furniture of Robert Adam, London, 1963, fig.42).
The grandmother of the most recent owner of this cabinet was the goddaughter of James Morrison (d. 1934), who inherited Basildon Park from his uncle, Charles Morrison, in 1910. Charles was the eldest son of the millionaire textile merchant and great 19th century collector, James Morrison (1789-1857), probably the richest commoner in the 19th century. James Morrison was the owner of Beckford's Fonthill and Basildon Park who became as astute a collector of works by Rubens, Veronese and Rembrandt as he was a businessman. In 1838 he commissioned J.B. Papworth to complete, decorate and furnish Basildon Park as a setting for his art collection (see Caroline Dakers, "A casket to enclose pictorial gems". Apollo, April 2004, pp.29-35). It is known that James Morrison the younger gave a number of pieces from Basildon Park to his goddaughter in the early years of the 20th century.