The fact that the top of this table tilts up suggests that as late as the mid-19th century furniture was still regularly removed from the center of a room when not in use and placed against the wall. Furthermore, the practice of tilting up the top allowed elaborately painted tables to function like a painting on an easel. This particular example is especially elaborate. Its central motif was achieved by inlaying pieces of mother-of-pearl into what might be a thin layer of papier-mâché over a wood substrate. Layers of paint and varnish were then applied atop the shell, producing lustrous flowers and birds, which were popular decorative motifs in 19th century design. The table was further animated with finely painted gilt bands and scrollwork.
"Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection," page 55