Born in Scilla to woodcarver Domenico Fava, Rocco Focá learned to chisel in his father's workshop. To develop his emerging talent, he left at a young age to study in Messina, Naples and Florence. It was in Florence where he befriended, and became one of the best pupils of, the celebrated sculptor Luigi Frullini. Focá participated in exhibitions in Milan, Paris, and Rome, and soon developed an international following. Among his commissions was a crib for the prince of Savoy, the future king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III. Focá's work is preserved in his hometown of Scilla, where he carved the doors of the church of Saint Rocco
At the height of his career in 1897, Focá died prematurely from a bronchial illness. Ironically, the present cabinet was likely produced for the 1898 Esposizione generale italiana in Turin. A reporter present at the exhibition, passing in review of the works exhibited by Focá, commented on the unfortunate parallels between the demise of both teacher and student: "come per il Frullini a Bruxelles (1897) la fortuna, almeno per ora, non sorride alla mostra del povero Focá (era scomparso proprio in quell'anno). Il pubblico dell'esposizione si lascia attrarre più volentieri dagli oggetti che rappresentano la tendenza del momento: quest'anno a Torino, che dal Luigi XVI non é neanche passata per l'Impero, ha tenerezze strane per la mobilia inglese e per le stoffe dai fiori stilizzanti, o, peggio, ritorna all'Oriente, magari cucinato in salse nuovissime" (S. Chiarugi, Botteghe di Mobilieri in Toscana 1780-1900, Florence, 1994, pp. 357, 359 & 477).