Operating table, used at Salpetriere Hospital, c.1900
Operating tables may have had multiple uses. It is possible this example doubled as an obstetrical table because it has nickel-plated stirrups. These may have held the mother’s feet during childbirth. The padded table folds upward to create a backrest and the bottom shelf slides out, possibly to hold instruments.
The table was used at Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, a teaching hospital built by Louis XIV the 'Sun King' in 1656 on the site of a former gunpowder factory. Before this, the site housed prostitutes, the poor, and people with disabilities and mental illnesses. By the late 1700s, the Salpêtrière had become the world's largest hospital.