Bouquet holder, flower and scrolls, mother of pearl handle

Object Details

Victorian (1837-1901)
The vase of the bouquet holder is created from interlacing heavy gilt wires. It is four-sided with a central gold loop at each side that is held in place by rings. At the center of each loop there are alternating enamel or gold flowers. The enameled flowers are designed with three clover-like petals surrounding a central coral colored bead. Around this enamel and beaded flower, similar beads are set in leafy mounts. This botanical representation created with beads and gold leaves is also present on the adjacent sides of the vase. Many of the beads are missing. The four sides are also comprised of intertwining gold wires that create spirals and curves that serve as the support, which connect the vase to the base. The bottom portion of the vase is comprised of green enamel leaves that cradle the wired portion. The handle of the bouquet holder is made of mother of pearl with a metal band around the top and bottom of the stem. These bands likely connected a chain that attached a ring and pin to the bouquet holder. Chain attached to a ring. that 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. 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.
bouquet holders
mother of pearl
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 metal, mother of pearl
6 × 1 1/2 in. (15.2 × 3.8 cm)
Art Nouveau
Record ID
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