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Bouquet holder, flower motif, mother of pearl

Object Details

Date
ca.1830-1920
Period
Victorian (1837-1901)
Description
Gilded brass bouquet holder with carved mother of pearl handle. The vase is formed by an elaborate collection of arches at top followed downward by shells, flowers, palmettes, and curves stamped in four repeats. The flowers are embellished with a six-dot surface texture. The neck band has a similar texture and is formed into four petals by a single sheet of gilt brass. Attached to the neck is a round-link chain ending in a small ring encircling the handle. The handle is mother of pearl which flattens out at the base and is carved in the shape of a flower with its leaves. Mother of pearl handles retained a cool feeling longer than some other materials; because of this, they were said to be appropriate for warmer months.
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.
Origin
Birmingham, England, possibly
Topic
bouquet holders
bouquetiers
mother of pearl
porte-bouquets
porte-fleurs
Posy holders
tussie-mussies
costume accessories
decorative arts
fashion
Victoriana
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Exhibition
Floral Fashions: From Bouquets to Buttonholes
On View
Smithsonian Institution, Quadrangle, S. Dillon Ripley Center
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Accession number
FJP.1987.027
Type
Bouquet holders
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Medium
Gilded brass, mother of pearl
Dimensions
5 × 1 1/4 in. (12.7 × 3.2 cm)
Style
Rococo Revival
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4358cfcce-66b0-46b4-881c-d69886ecea42
Record ID
hac_FJP.1987.027
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