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.
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.
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.
Cf. A similar example in the collection of the late Denys Bower at Chiddingstone