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Catalog Data

Gilded brass, mirrors, glass, bone
6 1/2 × 2 in. (16.5 × 5.1 cm)
Rococo Revival
Bouquet holders
Victorian (1837-1901)
Bouquet holder with gilded brass and mirror vase and bone handle. The vase of the bouquet holder is designed with four eighteenth-century style panels, each of which contains a small oval mirror. Sometimes called flirting mirrors, allowed the lady to check her face or spy on what was happening behind her. The mirrors are surrounded by elaborate ‘S' and ‘C' scrolls in gilded brass. The top of the vase incorporates an open design of feather-like motifs and is punctuated with a feather atop each mirror that extends above the lip. A clip on one of the vase panels suggest that this bouquet holder may have been attached to the user's dress. The vase connects to the handle at an ornately decorated bulbous neck band made from two stampings. A flat "O"-shaped ladder chain ending connecting to a floral pin is connected to the base. The pin is meant to be inserted into the vase through a small hole and by piercing the stems of the bouquet would secure the flowers in the holder. The straight handle is made of carved bone. A series of small openings with glass insets are deeply cut into the shaft. The bottom-most opening contains a small likeness of Narragansett Pier behind a magnifier. At one time, the other spaces may have contained other drawings or photographs.
Label Text:
Flowers used for personal adornment were a popular fashion accessory throughout the 1800s up to the mid-1900s. Carrying or wearing fresh flowers was an important aspect of not only fashion but of good breeding and refined tastes. Corsages worn by women and boutonnieres worn by men were essential elements of dress for the tasteful upper- and middle-class Americans and Europeans at social functions. Many wore flowers whenever they were in public, including President McKinley, who wore a carnation in his lapel every day. In 1840, Queen Adelaide, wife of King William IV of the Great Britain and Hanover, introduced the fashion of tucking a small posy into a high waistband or sash, and Queen Victoria popularized the bouquet holder as seen in her portrait at the opera painted by E.T. Parris in 1838. By the 1830s carrying and wearing 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. Some had a pin or clip attachment that allowed it to be worn on the clothing. These bouquet holders were usually light weight, so not to strain the garment. Similar holders were made for men to attach to their lapels and are often referred to as a boutonniere vase. Bouquet 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.
bone  Search this
bouquet holders  Search this
bouquetiers  Search this
porte-bouquets  Search this
porte-fleurs  Search this
Posy holders  Search this
tussie-mussies  Search this
costume accessories  Search this
decorative arts  Search this
fashion  Search this
Narragansett Pier  Search this
Victoriana  Search this
Credit Line:
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Accession number:
Restrictions & Rights:
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Floral Fashions: From Bouquets to Buttonholes
On View:
Smithsonian Institution, Quadrangle, S. Dillon Ripley Center
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens