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Catalog Data

Gilded silver, ivory, enamel, glass
7 1/2 × 2 in. (19.1 × 5.1 cm)
Renaissance Revival
Bouquet holders
Victorian (1837-1901)
Vase of gilded silver engraved and enameled with ivory handle. The cone-shaped vase of the bouquet is petit with three wisps extending upward creating a feather shape. The silver bowl is ornamented with engraved foliate motifs and white, black, and dark blue enameling. The top of the bowl is studded with four red paste-glass and eight turquois bezel-set paste-glass gems surrounded by embossed silver arabesques. Three plumes of graduating lengths extend from the lip of the vase and flourish across the front in a side-swept curve. Each has scrolling botanical surface decoration that is inlaid with five turquoise and eight red paste-glass bezel-set gems alternating in color. The straight handle is made of carved ivory with a leaf-like motif that spirals up its length.
Label Text:
Flowers used for personal adornment were a popular, almost mandatory, fashion accessory in the nineteenth century. Small bouquets, called nosegays, posies, or tussie mussies were carried by debutantes, matrons, and girls, and they were a popular gift in the mid to late 1800s among friends and suitors. They were typically created in concentric rings of flowers, tightly wound together, and were often tied with ribbon or placed in a bouquet holder depending on the tastes and fashions. By the 1830s carrying small bouquets of flowers in decorative holders was an established fashion accessory of the upper class and royalty of Europe. These small accessories, also known as posy holders, ‘porte-bouquets’, and ‘bouquetiers’ were both decorative as well as useful. By providing a water source in the bottom of the receptacle, they were able to keep the flowers fresh throughout an occasion, and they also protected the wearer’s gloves or clothing from being stained by the plant pigments. Queen Victoria helped popularize the bouquet holder, and she is seen holding one in her portrait “Queen Victoria at the Drury Lane Theatre, November 1837” painted by E.T. Parris. When the fashion of carrying hand bouquets in decorative holders caught the fancy of the wealthy and middle class, holders were copied and mass produced in a variety of sizes, materials, and embellishments. During the second half of the nineteenth century, holders might be commissioned or purchased from the stock at a jeweler or florist shop. Few were made in the United States, instead they were usually imported from Europe and Asia. They were often given as a commemorative memento of historic encounters or events by the royalty and courts of Europe, but they were also used to celebrate and commemorate important, though less prestigious, events of the wealthy and middle class. Bouquet holders reached the peak of their popularity between the 1830s and 1880s, but it began to dwindle as bouquets of long-stemmed flowers (the latest horticultural development) loosely tied with ribbons surpassed the posy bouquet style. They were not totally out of fashion until the “Roaring Twenties,” when such objects became regarded as trivial and useless. The diversity of styles and mechanisms of bouquet holders is evidence of their longevity as a fashion accessory.
bouquet holders  Search this
bouquetiers  Search this
enamel  Search this
gilding  Search this
hatpins  Search this
ivory  Search this
paste (glass)  Search this
porte-bouquets  Search this
porte-fleurs  Search this
silver  Search this
tussie-mussies  Search this
costume accessories  Search this
decorative arts  Search this
fashion  Search this
Victoriana  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Accession number:
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See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens