In Italy, the late 16th century was marked by the growing prestige of numerous families, who competed with one another in the opulent decoration of their palaces, with carved or gilded ceilings, frescoes on the walls, marble floors and splendid tapestries. The ever greater need for luxury and sophistication was reflected in the creation of scenic, architectural furniture on a monumental scale, made by famous artists.
The development of the exclusively ornamental table should be seen within this context. The different marbles and pietre dure that decorated the tops of such tables came from Egypt, Arabia, Persia, India and China, and they took five to seven years in the making.
Known in Italian as tavole intarsiate, or tavolini di gioie, the name given to them by Giorgio Vasari, these tables were purchased at exorbitant prices by the most powerful courts of that time, expressing a sophisticated and mannerist taste and revealing an ever greater knowledge about precious stones.
This particular example stood, most appropriately, in the entrance hall of the Palácio Burnay, in Junqueira, Lisbon.