Wooden Cabinet, by John Byfield, about 1700
The cabinet was made in about 1700 to commemorate the marriage of Margaret Trotter to George Lawson. The couple’s monograms can be seen on the outer doors, while the arms of the two families can be found on the door of the inner cupboard.
The cabinet passed to Margaret’s sister Mrs Catherine Bower who in turn left it to her son Henry in her will, dated 21 April 1742:
‘Item, I give to my son Henry Bower as a token of my gratitude for his particular affection & care over me during my many an long illnesses, my Silver Tea Kettle and lamp and my large inlaid cabinet with china Jarrs thereto belonging which were my late sister Lawson’s’.
The 'china Jarrs' mentioned in the will were probably displayed on the four small plinths on the top of the cabinet. The fashion for displaying Chinese porcelain was at its height in the 1680s and 1690s having been brought over from the Continent by King William and Queen Mary. Often the only places to display such porcelain were on cabinets, mantelpieces or over doors due to the sparseness of furnishings at the time.
Although the cabinet was made in Britain there are signs of Continental styles influencing its decoration. The complex marquetry of birds and flowers is very similar to Dutch craftsmanship and the crossed ‘L’s’ on the doors may be a deliberate and flattering reference to the monogram of the French king Louis XIV who was a leader of all European fashion. Inside the doors of the cabinet burr woods have been used to suggest the marble tops of console tables on top of which are depicted classical urns containing flowers. This again follows fashion, imitating similar decoration on contemporary Dutch cabinets.