In an August 1876 article on the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia, the American Art Journal stated, "Taken as a whole the vase collection of pottery and porcelain at the International Exhibition surpasses, for educational purposes, anything that can be seen of modern manufacture in any museum." Numerous publications of the time noted that the ceramics, in particular those from Europe, were among the most important industrial arts at the Exhibition. More innovations had been made in the field of ceramics in the second half of the nineteenth century than in any other medium. Many of these developments, made by European factories in the decades before 1876, were seen by Americans for the first time at the Centennial.
European ceramics figured prominently among the objects acquired from the exhibition by the newly founded Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art, later the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose founders were committed to providing the public and those in industry with objects of good design and craftsmanship. Drawing from the Museum's permanent collection and other public and private collections, A Most Exquisite Display: European Ceramics at the Centennial Exhibition will reunite a group of objects that have not been shown together in more than a century.