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Catalog Data

Gilded brass
6 1/2 × 2 in. (16.5 × 5.1 cm)
Aesthetic Movement
Bouquet holders
Great Britain, possibly
Victorian (1837-1901)
This tripod bouquet holder is formed in two sections. The upper portion is fashioned with four gilt brass panels in a stylized leaf shape to create the vase. The panels are separated by small openings. From the uppermost pierced holes a single bead dangles in each window. The surface of the leaves is designed with a geometric pattern of black crisscrossing lines and delicate etching which traces the borders. Inside the vase of the holder is a pin extending upward. This is an unusual feature that would have been used to pierce the flower and hold it in place. The vase section is united to the lower portion by a golden ball. The handle section forms a tripod base for the holder. It is etched with scrolling arabesques. The legs of the tripod, when closed, act as a handle, or they can be opened to create a free standing bouquet. A ring on a chain also allows the holder to be worn on the finger. An extra length of chain is also included around the base. This may have been used to secure the legs of the tripod together.
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
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
gilding  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