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Bouquet holder, feather vase, enamel handle

Object Details

Victorian (1837-1901)
Gilded vase with a blue enamel handle. The upper portion of the vase is fabricated from four repeats of elongated bands, which alternate between a stamped feather design and thin ribbon-like strips that loop over the lip of the vase. The centers of the ribbons are stamped and remnants of light blue enamel are present. The bowl of the vase is designed with elaborate metalwork on either side of two entwining bands, one with white enamel and dots and the other is smooth with green enamel. Small loops below connect to a ringed neck band with vertical-line bands alternating with enamel bands, and plain rings. The topmost band connects a chain attached to a pin that would have been inserted through holes near the top of the vase in order to secure the posy in the holder. The second band connects the vase to a tapered handle. The handle is comprised of dark blue enamel on copper sheet with gold and silver paillons. It is capped with a gilded brass ball stamped in two pieces. A loop for attachment of a chain and finger ring was soldered on the bottom, however both are missing. This feature 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.
France, possibly
bouquet holders
brass (alloy)
copper enameling
Posy holders
costume accessories
decorative arts
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
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
Bouquet holders
Restrictions & Rights
Gilded brass, enamal on copper, gold and silver paillons
5 × 1 1/4 in. (12.7 × 3.2 cm)
Rococo Revival
Record ID
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