The pietre dure (hardstone) plaques on this cabinet date from the late 1700s; they were probably made by Italian craftsmen and brought home as souvenirs by Northern European tourists. Connoisseurs appreciated the variety and rarity of the stones and artisans' skillful arrangement of them into mosaic and relief designs. Because of their value and popularity with collectors, such plaques were sometimes mounted into specially made and suitably grand cabinets.
The catalogues of two sales held during the French Revolution describe the pair of this cabinet, made about twenty years earlier. William Beckford, a wealthy English connoisseur of hardstones, probably purchased the other cabinet late in the 1700s. He may have ordered this cabinet to be made with identical gilt bronze mounts and dimensions to match the earlier one.