The lacquered objects and screens which were imported to Europe in the late 17th century by the East India Company generated a demand for functional furniture which reflected this taste and employed the same highly colourful, decorative surfaces of the imported wares. In London, the St Pauls Church Yard cabinet-maker John Belchier (d.1753) owes his reputation partly to the series of labelled bureau cabinets in both green and red japan and the extensive suite of scarlet japanned furniture (comprising approximately eighty items) supplied to Duke of Infantados castle at Lazcano in northern Spain remains possibly the best known commission of the Clerkenwell cabinet-maker Giles Grendey (1693-1780).
John Stalker and George Parker's 1688 Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing became a key reference work for the recreation of the rich and highly finished effect of oriental lacquer work. The treatise contained recipes for producing the various different colours but also patterns of Chinese figures, plants and gardens. These highly decorated wares were expensive and only within the means of more affluent patrons and like their eastern counterparts would have been perceived as luxurious high status items. In Europe this 'japanning' as it became known remained fashionable until the end of the eighteenth century. Japanning was considered to be particularly suitable for bedroom apartments, in the decoration of mirrors, as well as on desks and bureau cabinets such as reflected here. Green japanning has traditionally been considered to be rarer than those on a black or red ground.