Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

5 1/2 × 1 1/4 in. (14 × 3.2 cm)
Gothic Revival
Bouquet holders
Sheffield, England
ca. 1869
Victorian (1837-1901)
Cone-shaped vase and handle made of silver in the Gothic Revival style of the Victorian era. The vase of this posy holder is designed with incised medallions alternating between patterned and smooth surfaces that create a Gothic arch motif around that vase. A bulge with incised line patterning surrounds the top of the vase just below the lip, which is beaded. The vase connects to the handle at in a stepped sequence of rings and swells. The central swell at this point mimics the pattern around the bulge at the top of the vase. A pin on a chain is connected to his point that would be inserted into the vase, in order to secure the flowers in place. The straight handle culminates in as swell where a ring on a chain is attached. This ring would allow the bouquet holder to be worn about the finger or attached to a chatelaine at the waist to free the lady's hands while dancing. The handle is ornamented with incised lines which extend from medallion shapes surrounding a basket weave motif at the base of the handle. Surfaces are embossed with scrolls and foliate motifs.
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.
Country of Origin: Lion passant (England)
City/Region of Origin: Crown (Sheffield)
Date letter: B within hexagon (1869)
Makers Mark: S?R
Duty Mark: Queen Victoria in profile within an octagon
bouquet holders  Search this
bouquetiers  Search this
porte-bouquets  Search this
porte-fleurs  Search this
Posy holders  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:
Restrictions & Rights:
See more items in:
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Data Source:
Smithsonian Gardens