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Boquet holder, mirrored, mother of pearl handle

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.1987.137
Description
Gilded brass bouquet holder with mirrors and mother of pearl handle. The vase is four-sided, two of which features a central oval mirror surrounded by beaded stamped frames above a large leaf. These alternate with smaller, oval frames that are left empty. They are connected to the base by a wire that encloses them within a teardrop shaped loop. A short length of round-link chain connected to a loop-ended floral pin attaches to one of the structural wires near the middle of the vase. The pin would be inserted through the vase to pierce the stems of a bouquet in order to secure the flowers inside the holder. Below, the vase attaches to the handle with six petals textured with crisscrossing lines and droops over the neck band. The tapered handle is spindle shaped, 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. The shaft of the handle narrows slightly with incised rings stacked along the bottom. Near the tip of the handle a is a looped a link which would attach a chain and 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
mirrors
mother of pearl
porte-bouquets
porte-fleurs
Posy holders
tussie-mussies
costume accessories
decorative arts
fashion
Victoriana
Medium
Gilded metal, mirror, mother of pearl
Dimensions
6 × 1 in. (15.2 × 2.5 cm)
Style
Rococo Revival
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Restrictions & Rights
CC0
Type
Bouquet holders
GUID
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/aq44f713ff5-d7e4-41d4-912d-30496ce5442c
Record ID
hac_FJP.1987.137
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