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Bouquet holder, Greek key motif

Object Details

Victorian (1837-1901)
Cast silver bouquet holder with silver beadwork. The vase of the bouquet holder incorporated a Greek key motif that is set at an angle. Below this geometric design the rest of the vase is designed in curvilinear scrolls and issuing from central lines around the circumference of the vase. Both the scrolls and Greek key designs have applied silver beadwork tracing their forms. At the base of the vase a pin on a chain is attached, which could be inserted through the vase and stems of flowers to secure a bouquet in place. At this point the bouquet holder also has a ring connected to a chain attached to it. The ring allowed the bouquet holder to be worn on the finger or attached to a chatelaine at the waist to free the lady's hands while dancing. The bouquet holder has a straight, spindle handle, which has applied beadwork and smooth surfaces within inverted pointed arches. The tip of the handle is patterned with gothic motifs and is crowned with a single silver bead at the point. This mixture of classical and gothic motifs is representative of the interest in historicism which characterizes much of nineteenth century design.
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.
Birmingham, England, possibly
bouquet holders
Posy holders
costume accessories
decorative arts
See more items in
Horticultural Artifacts Collection
Credit Line
Smithsonian Gardens, Horticultural Artifacts Collection. Gift of Frances Jones Poetker.
Data Source
Smithsonian Gardens
Accession number
Bouquet holders
Restrictions & Rights
5 1/2 × 2 in. (14 × 5.1 cm)
Renaissance Revival
Record ID
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