Beginning with London's Crystal Palace Exhibition in 1851, World's Fairs have provided nations the opportunity to showcase their most daring achievements on an international stage. Objects made for display at international exhibitions tend to be of a quality traditionally reserved for religious, royal, or diplomatic commissions. World's Fair objects also benefit from detailed documentation through catalogues and eyewitness accounts, which helped identify this as the very piano made for display at the Paris Exposition Universalle
H. W. Batley, one of the great freelance designers of the 19th century, captured the exotic Anglo-Japanese aesthetic in his use of linear and naturalistic design elements. Shoolbred & Co. may have employed Japanese craftsmen to execute the exquisite carving. An attached music stand that ingeniously folds up into the cabinet and a commemorative silver plaque engraved with the piano's floral motifs, complete Batley, Shoolbred, and Collard & Collard's masterpiece, which has come to be a viewed as an icon of the Aesthetic Movement (1860-1880) in England.
]After its unveiling at the Exposition Universalle, this piano made its way into private hands until being acquired by the Institute. A virtually identical model, made two years later, is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.