It's small, it's naive, almost crude, but it's not bad for the work of a young girl. Probably her first attempt at the new craze of Japanning. Japanning was the name given to English, and American, attempts to imitate oriental lacquer. In England it quickly caught on as an accomplishment for young ladies.
In 1685 Edward Verney wrote to his daughter, "I find you have a desire to learn Jappan, as you call it, and I approve of it, and so I shall of anything that is Good and Virtuous, therefore learn in God's name all the Good Things, & I will willingly be at the Charge so farr as I am able -- though they come from Japan & never so farr & Looke of an Indian Hue and Odour, for I admire all accomplishments that will render you considerable and lovely in the sight of God and man." We feel pretty certain that making his unmarried daughter "considerable and lovely" in the sight of man (rather than God) might have been uppermost in a father's mind.
To Englishmen of the time, of course, India, China and Japan were indistinguishable, and were often lumped together under the word "India."
Verney is trying hard not to be surprised that his daughter wants to learn something "from Japan and never so farr" -- Japanning was the first sign of the global economy (in which England was heavily invested) to reach the culture of young girls.
To show how fashionable she was, the young girl who Japanned this box included a tripod table with a china tea pot and handleless drinking bowls. Tripod tables and stands were not common in seventeenth-century England, but they existed: what was new ("Indian") about this one were the cabriole legs, which, like the tea pot, came to England from China. She was planning to be an admirably modern wife.
Japanning involved using three or more coats of black, red or green varnish as background, and then laying the raised design in a gesso-like paste which was colored and then finished with more coats of varnish. The technique was carefully described in a popular book by Stalker and Parker, Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing: being a compleat Discovery of those Arts ... together with above an hundred distinct patterns for japan-worl ...(1688) that was used by both amateurs and professionals. We wonder if the little vignette here was taken from those "hundred distinct patterns"? Gotta believe that it was.
The box was clearly made to be Japanned: it was of pine, with a tight, straight grain, imported from northern Europe, but, most significantly, all its corners were mitered, so there was no visible end-grain. Japanning, of course, required a smooth, even surface, which end-grain certainly was not.