Our Past Exhibitions

The Transition


The Late 20th Century and Our Transition


The late 20th. Century

By the time the 1990s arrived I was beginning to see how the structure of advertising and promoting the beautiful furniture we had on show was changing with the introduction of computerisation but no matter how good the keyboard wizardry was, the joy of buying a chest of drawers, cleaning and waxing it before photographing the piece and displaying it in a room setting was our mainstay. The beauty of the pieces transcends all else. This is amply illustrated in our annual exhibition catalogues many of which have been in great demand from collectors and museums around the world. When our landlords in London’s West One decided they wanted to develop the whole block including our showrooms the time had come for another move.

The transition

Initially retrenching to our retained warehouse in Chalk Farm we continued the business sharing the building with my conservation department. I decided the best way forward would be the acquisition of freehold premises but where? Central London was sadly out of the question but the new age had arrived where a colour advertisement in Country Life was no longer the best way to bring the business to potential clients’ notice. The internet was rapidly changing everyone’s understanding and perspective. The exhibitions continued.

Exhibitions throughout the 1990’s

The Pen and the Sword Summer 1990

In the Summer of 1990, the groundbreaking exhibition was the cornerstone on the subject of Campaign Furniture, an inventive type of furniture specifically made to break down or fold for ease of travel, often used in military campaigns. This catalogue inspired others to embark upon further research and publish books on the subject, including “British Campaign Furniture: Elegance Under Canvas, 1740-1914” by Nicholas A. Brawer. As in the past, the exhibition catalogue was carried in the distinguished “The World of Interiors” magazine.
The Harvey’s team created a fascinating and meticulous tent shot in a studio and at Wrotham Park in Barnet, Hertfordshire. Campaign furniture, writing and fighting at home and abroad came to life in the 5 Old Bond Street exhibition and catalogue, aptly titled “The Pen and the Sword”. For this project, Walter Harvey, founder of Harvey’s Antiques, was persuaded to approach his old regiment, the 16th/5th Royal Lancers, with whom he had served in the second World War, to lend some of their museum collection for the exhibition. Luckily, they agreed, and you can see some of these pieces illustrated in the catalogue.

A Classical Reception Summer 1991

The Salon, or as it would have been almost until this century, the “saloon”, was always a space in the grander of homes where guests, friends and family were received, welcomed and entertained. In their summer 1991 exhibition for visitors at 5 Old Bond Street, “A Classical Reception”, Harvey’s displayed the evolution of the Salon over a period of 130 years. Encompassing the reigns of six monarchs, the team created four special period settings to explore how this particular room, often a grand reception room where the furnishings were virtually on public view and therefore required the finest furniture, changed with the different styles and public opinions. The catalogue for the exhibition was photographed by Mike Venables at Forty Hall, Enfield, with the kind cooperation of the London Borough of Enfield.

Forty Hall is a Grade 1 Listed Jacobean Manor House, nestled in leafy Enfield and set amidst an idyllic landscape. One can step in to the Hall to admire the fine architecture and stunning period rooms. David Harvey notes, “We all enjoyed being there for a week and feeding the ducks and geese on the pond. We also discovered the hidden pets graveyard where generations of trusty estate dogs were buried with headstones!”

The Four Georges Summer 1992

“The Four Georges” exhibition in the Summer of 1992 was an opportunity to display fine examples of Cabinet Making and Furnishing spanning nearly a century and a half within the reigns of Britain’s great Georgian monarchs. This was achieved through room settings based on styles from 1714-1830. Four room sets reflected the times of the first four Kings George: George I (1714-1727) with Walnut as the predominant wood used in furnishings, George II (1727-1760) with a symphony of Mahogany reflecting his times and touching upon the Palladian Period as well as early Rococo, George III (1760-1820) with the influences of Robert Adam and the Neo-classical Period, and finally George IV (1820-1830) closing the show in the height of Regency style. Going from the austere to the “retour de l’Egypte” of Thomas Hope and George Smith showed the diversity that we now associate with this period in our history. As society changed and became wealthier, so did the styles and the classes of people able to afford better quality pieces.

“All the exhibitions which we have curated over the years have been the greatest fun working with a great team both inhouse and external specialists. We always manage to find more reasons for laughter to echo around the locations and again when we re-create the rooms in our showrooms.” states David Harvey.


The Gentleman's Library Summer 1993

The Summer of 1993 exhibition and studio catalogue were created as a celebration of 10 years of successes at 5 Old Bond Street, as well as the 75th Anniversary of the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA). “The Gentleman’s Library: Georgian Library Settings, 1715-1830” was a selection of Library settings designed to show the changes which took place in furniture and furnishings between the early 18th and early 19th centuries. The Library was seen in all of it’s iterations, from a sanctuary for the ultra wealthy bibliophile, to a status symbol for the rich and cultured, a place to show off the many and varied items collected on a Grand Tour, and finally to a room for the family, fit for a variety of pursuits.

The Library has been a subject for several of Harvey’s exhibitions, and of course, every time the team creates one, it looks completely different as pieces are sold and replaced with new acquisitions. There is no such thing as a stale Library Exhibition! If you look very closely, you may well be able to spot that Harvey’s has a grand selection of old leather bound tomes which come out of attics and are dusted off and cleaned for these exhibitions. Since the team does so much research and cataloguing for each show, Libraries are very much Harvey’s second homes.

A Cabinet Reshuffle Summer 1994

After successful past exhibitions focusing on rooms and reigns in the realm of antique furniture, the Harvey’s team turned their focus to another theme in the Summer of 1994 – not upon one particular period, room or style of furniture, but upon the cabinet makers themselves and their work during the period of 1685-1830. This was the golden age of English furniture, and by assembling a striking mix of quality pieces, Harvey’s achieved in a few room settings the essence of the so-called “English Look”. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue, shot by Mike Venables at Forty Hall in Enfield, were titled “A Cabinet Reshuffle: Classic Furniture in Period Room Settings 1685-1830” in order to encompass the breadth of the theme.

The major upheavals taking place in UK government during 1994 suggested the title for this exhibition, which was well received. David Harvey recounts, “We had managed to build up a choice selection of individual items, from the wonderful Mulberry, Kingwood and metal Poulett Bureau by Coxed and Woster to the Salon Armchair attributed to Thomas Chippendale. It was such fun moving pieces around on our second outing to Forty Hall and seeing how they interacted one with another. The Jacobean architecture and plasterwork of the house certainly lent itself to our furniture and provided a delicious backdrop to the whole show.”

Past Present and Future 1996

Nearly 20 years after Harvey’s first special themed exhibition at their Chalk Farm showrooms, and annual exhibitions at 5 Old Bond Street in the Mayfair district of London, the first exhibition in the company’s new premises in Witney, in the Cotswolds in 1996 was aptly christened: “Past, Present and Future”. From their new location, the team was able to “borrow” period houses for a few days to shoot the setting for the catalogue, which was then recreated in situ at the showrooms for the exhibition.

The Witney premises at 86 Corn Street lent itself particularly well to the theme, as the premises were largely built during the early Georgian Period, and it is a Grade II listed building. The settings displayed pieces from the warm glow of the early 18th century Walnut Furniture through mid and late 18th century Library Bookcases, to the high Regency of the Rosewood and Brass embellished Duet Music Stand. The exhibition was honoured to have the Society of Stars Chairman and internationally acclaimed author, Mr. Frederick Forsyth, open the proceedings. Thus, all elements of the Past exhibitions were displayed in the then Present new showrooms, setting a precedent for all exhibitions in the Future.

The Wagers of Sin Summer 1997

While no recordings exist of the first wager or bet ever laid, it seems that mankind has been competitive since the very dawn of time. Beginning with the struggle for existence, man-v-beast, of ancient times, over the centuries mankind triumphed by learning to make tools and implements to further dominate in life’s struggle. Eventually, those qualities which had been previously necessary for survival were transformed into leisure pursuits, into games that are easily recognised today, and ones which had become an integral part of society and economic development of England in the past. In 1628, the Worshipful Company of Makers of Playing Cards was formed with the support of King Charles I (who was desperate to raise money) and the tax on each pack of cards sold was collected by the Worshipful Company and paid to the king. The history of these items is intricate, and deeply involved in the evolution of the furniture used to play upon, especially in Georgian times. In the Summer of 1997, “The Wagers of Sin: Gambling, Gaming & Leisure Pursuits in 18th Century England” was staged in Harvey’s new premises in Witney, with facsimile sets of cards covering the period from 1676 through to 1811, and displaying Card Tables and other furniture used to play the varied gambling games of the time in period settings.

King George III was so affronted by gamblers using coin of the realm for gambling that he made it illegal to use coins for wagers, so clever brassfounders in Birmingham produced special brass tokens with the sovereigns head to use instead! There are even reports of folks gambling on which drops of rain would run down a window first. All sports and pastimes were “fair game” for a wager: from riding, Trou Madame, billiards, cockfighting to cards and dice. Fortunes were both made and lost on the turn of a card.

Mrs Plante's Dressing Table Summer 1998

In the Summer of 1998, Harvey’s was fortunate to have been able to assemble one of the finest selections of English and Scottish attributable furniture of the Georgian Period to date. Through discernment based upon experience with certain cabinetmakers, and diligent research into the background circumstances which support an attribution, the pieces came together for the exhibition. Some items already had their own label or stamp, such as the Secretaire Bookcase by Speer, and stamped pieces from Gillows of Lancaster. Other pieces were provenanced through household accounts and inventories, such as the Secretaire Table and Footstools from Mere Park. Geography was taken into account for pieces by Trotter of Edinburgh, which all came from homes close to the Scottish capital.

David Harvey describes why the title “Mrs Plante’s Dressing Table” was used, “…because on a beastly cold winter’s day when the snow was still deep on the ground in Northumberland I drove to a friend’s home near the border with Scotland where I saw this Dressing Table for the first time. It almost literally screamed at me as it was so unique. I just had to own it, if only for a short time. The research was assisted by Susan Stuart, whose wonderful 2 volumes on Gillows of London and Lancaster has now become one of the most used reference works on English Furniture. It was relatively simple thereafter to find the matching design and notes in the Gillows Archives at Westminster Central Library.”

Take Choice of all my Library Summer 1999

Despite the exhibition title of Summer 1999 being a quote from Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus”, “…take choice of all my Library and so beguile thy sorrow.” 200 years of Library Furniture shown in period room settings epitomise the quintessential “English look” of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Before Caxton’s first printed work in 1746 in Cologne to his soon after established press in the Almonry at Westminster, the cost of printing and binding was prohibitively expensive, with only the wealthiest being able to acquire early tomes, and thus libraries were slow to become established. The earliest recorded furniture to have been specifically commissioned for a library was ordered by Samuel Pepys in 1666, and by the end of the 17th century Bureau Bookcases with mirrored doors encompassed both the main activities within the library, having adjustable bookshelves to the top and falls open for writing. By the middle of the 18th century, the novel was introduced and women gradually entered the sphere of the library. Within a few decades, the whole feel of the library had changed, with furniture evolving with the fashions, from Grand Tour Architect’s Tables to Kneehole Desks and delicate Harlequin Cabinets.

The Library was an ingenious concept for cabinetmakers who produced many metamorphic pieces from Library Steps/Armchairs, Reading Tables, Reading Chairs etc., some of which can be attributed to the London firm of Morgan and Saunders, and which were shown in the exhibition, dated to 1810-1815 from illustrations present in Ackermann’s famous “Repository of the Arts”.