The black rosewood tablet is ivory-inlaid in Roman mosaiced compartments with engraved tablets, medallions, scrolling foliage and grotesques around various city plans, derived from views published by F. Valegio and M. Rota in Venice in 1595; and a world map, probably based on Abraham Ortelius's Typus Orbis Terrarum, his map of 1570 that was reprinted in forty-two editions between 1570-1612 and published in seven languages. Such inlay was a speciality of Neapolitan craftsmen around 1600, and features on a pair of cabinets reputedly presented to Antonio Alvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba and Viceroy of Naples, by the City of Naples in 1623; and on another cabinet now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The latter, and the Duke of Alba's pair, now in the Museo di San Martino, Naples, are discussed by A. Gonzalez-Palacios, op. cit, vol. I, pp. 239-243 and vol. II, figs. 416-420, 423. Interstingly, these are inlaid to the interior of a fall front, and this table top may also originally have been a cabinet fallfront.
The world map forming the centre-piece to this tablet was modelled on the celebrated world map of Abraham Ortelius, engraved by Franz Hogenberg and published in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Antwerp, 1570); this was itself a one-sheet reduction of Mercator's large world map which had appeared the year before. The first sixteen editions of Ortelius's map, published up to 1587, were printed from the original plate. A new plate with corrections to the coastline of South America was introduced in 1586, but the tablet map is clearly based on the uncorrected version. The city plans surrounding it derive from the Nuova raccolta di le piu illustri et famose citta di tutto mondo (Venice, 1595), engraved by Francesco Valegio and Martin Rota, examples of which are known to have been printed on ivory. The plates of Rota and Valegio were themselves drawn from other works, notably the early volumes of Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg's Civitates orbis terrarum (Cologne, 1572-75)
This group of cabinets (and their pictorial tablets) are associated with the Neapolitan cabinet-maker Giovanni Battista De Curtis, and the specialist ivory engravers Gennaro Picicato and Iacobo Fiamengo. De Curtis's signature appears on the main panel of a related cabinet in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, while Picicato signed the map on the same cabinet. Meanwhile, Fiamengo is recorded as working with other leading ivory engravers (such as Petrus Pax) in Naples in 1590 and certainly worked with De Curtis: in correspondence of 10 January 1596 between him and De Curtis, Fiamengo describes himself as 'Iacobo Fiamengo scrittorista' (ibid., p. 240).
Another similar tablet depicting a map based on Ortelius's Typus Orbis Terrarum, mounted onto a later table frame, was sold by the late C. Ruxton and Audrey B. Love, Christie's New York, 20 October 2004, lot 473, its border inlaid with designs depicting scenes in the life of the Philip II of Spain (1527-1598).