The exceptional quality of this export cabinet invites comparison with a well-known group of nine Japanese export lacquers which includes the Van Diemen box in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Chiddingstone casket in the Denys Bower collection.
Although most of the known export pieces incorporate figural scenes based on the Tale of Genji, while the cartouches on the present cabinet contain non-figural subjects such as pavilions in mountainous coastal landscapes, trees, shrubs and autumn flowers, there are several important shared characteristics. These are: the distinctive ogival cartouches themselves, found on each face of the cabinet and resembling those on all but two of the group quoted; the use of very narrow aogai borders, a notable feature of the Chiddingstone casket and seen here on the inside of the doors, a manifest sign of quality, and finally, the use of key-fret and hanabishi designs.
According to Joe Earle, writing in the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society, most if not all of the group of export pieces were produced in the period 1636-1639 , while their choice of subject and high standard of workmanship lends support to the hypothesis that these superior lacquers may have emanated from the Kyoto workshop of the Koami family, at this time under the supervision of the tenth master, Koami Nagashige. The large quantity of work undertaken by Nagashige cannot all have come from the hand of the master himself, and in the present case something of his influence is all that one would expect; moreover, in a later essay on a small box bearing the monogram F.C., Earle mentions a Japanese suggestion that the lacquers might have been produced by the Igarashi family rather than the Koami; the present cabinet is probably closer to their style, which was adopted in later years by the prolific Kajikawa school.
These characteristics, and the fact that expense has not been spared, suggest that the cabinet was a special commission rather than part of a regular Dutch consignment. Its high quality would have made it appropriate as a gift to, or from, a person of rank, such as, for example, Frederik Coyett, Opperhoofd at Deshima in 1647 and again in 1652; Japanese officials are known to have used lacquer boxes in this way.