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Bouquet holder, female figure with tobacco leaf pattern, looped handle

Object Details

ca. 1830-1920
Victorian (1837-1901)
Stamped silver-plated copper bouquet holder formed of four identical female figures and tobacco leaf repeats. Each is dressed in a headdress, necklace, and flowing skirt with boots, and are likely meant to depict the stylized ideal of the "Indian maidens" of the Americas held by Europeans. A wire loop clip for attachment to clothing is soldered to the back of the vase. The looped, or rat-tail, handle is made from a single sheet stamped with a scaly pattern produced by seven encircled dots. The handle terminates with a tiny stamped flower. There is also a ring near the bottom for attachment of chain, but it is missing. The chain would connect to a pin to secure the flowers in place, or a finger ring that would allow the bouquet holder to be worn from the finger or on a chatelaine in order to free the lady's hands while dancing.
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.
Birmingham, England, possibly
bouquet holders
Posy holders
costume accessories
decorative arts
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection.
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Accession number
Bouquet holders
Restrictions & Rights
Copper, silver plating
4 7/8 × 1 1/4 in. (12.4 × 3.2 cm)
Record ID
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