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Bouquet holder, agate, mother of pearl

Object Details

See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Exhibition
Floral Fashions: From Bouquets to Buttonholes
On View
Smithsonian Institution, Quadrangle, S. Dillon Ripley Center
Date
ca.1830-1920
Period
Victorian (1837-1901)
Accession number
FJP.1987.038
Description
Gilded brass and agate (?) bouquet holder with mother of pearl handle. The vase is formed from four panels of curving wires around two oval frames stamped with a flower and leaf design. Alternating sides of the vase are inlaid in the frames are marbled oval “agates” or glass given the appearance of an agate stone with stamped leaves below. This type of agate is associated with Scotland. On the opposite sides, are large leaves surrounded by vines. Near the bottom of the vase is a round link chain ending in a looped-head floral pin. The pin would be inserted through the vase to pierce the stems of a bouquet in order to secure the flowers inside the holder. Six petals textured with crosshatched lines attach to the smooth neck band joining the vase to the handle. The spindle handle is made from turned mother of pearl. 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. Near the bottom is a band encircling the handle that connects a short length of chain attached to a ring. The ring would allow the bouquet holder to be worn from the finger or on a chatelaine at the waist to free the lady's hands while dancing.
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.
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Topic
bouquet holders
bouquetiers
mother of pearl
porte-bouquets
porte-fleurs
Posy holders
tussie-mussies
costume accessories
decorative arts
fashion
Victoriana
Medium
Gilded brass, agate(?), marbled glass, mother of pearl
Dimensions
6 1/4 × 1 1/4 in. (15.9 × 3.2 cm)
Style
Aesthetic Movement
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Type
Bouquet holders
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq4601ffd5c-298c-4aa9-84ea-8d7430946996
Record ID
hac_FJP.1987.038
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