Home  / DH1039, 2019.4.2

Cornucopia flower bouquet holder owned by Catherine Dickens

Collection

Object

Object number (per part)

DH1039, 2019.4.2

Object name (per part)

bouquet holder

Production date

1850s

Label

This is a cornucopia flower bouquet holder owned by Catherine Dickens, dating from around the 1850s. The holder is gold toned with engraved detailing all over. It has a pin that fits through it to secure a bouquet and a ring on a chain that would have been worn to secure the item to the wearer. This holder is likely to have been used by Catherine at dinner parties or formal events.

Bouquet holders such as this originated at the court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV and gained popularity in other European courts during the 1800s. They were designed to retain the perfume and freshness of flower posies and to protect fine dress fabrics from staining. On 16 August 2018, the jewellery expert Charlotte Gere visited the Museum and viewed this item. These are some of her comments: "The bouquet would be tied. The securing pin comes out, you put it in above the tie. Flowers would have been in paper with frill around it – paper lace. Inside the holder, you soak the flowers in water to keep them as fresh as possible, or use a bit of damp muslin. [...] The wearer would have preferred flowers, a signature scent to be worn regularly. Such bouquets were worn partly to defend against the terrible smell of other people. [...] The holder has little legs that come out so the item can stand, for example it could be set on the side during a dance. This item might not be English and the decoration is neo-Gothic. This is a reason for wondering if it is French. Queen Victoria's jewellery collection included similar items, which are held by the Royal Collections Trust, for example she was given one by the Empress Eugenie when they visited Paris in 1855."

Physical description

A brass-toned cornucopia bouquet holder with an incised floral motif concentrated at the top and bottom of the horn. There is a removable pin at the top used to hold the flowers in place, which is attached to the holder with a chain anchored near the bottom of the horn; the chain also connects a ring with a decorative zigzag pattern. On the back of the horn there are two legs which come out and can form a tripod to support the horn, when not extended they blend into the main body of the holder

Object history note

Bouquet holders such as this originated at the court of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV and gained popularity in other European courts during the 1800s. They were designed to retain the perfume and freshness of flower posies and to protect fine dress fabrics from staining and some, such as the one owned by Catherine Dickens, were fitted with stands to allow them to be placed upright on a table. They were used on social occasions such as formal dinners, visits to the theatre or at balls.

On 16 August 2018, the jewellery expert Charlotte Gere visited the Museum and viewed this item. These are some of her comments about the posy holder: "The bouquet would be tied. The securing pin comes out, you put it in above the tie. Flowers would have been in paper with frill around it – paper lace. Inside the holder, you soak the flowers in water to keep them as fresh as possible, or use a bit of damp muslin. It would have been worn by the ring at the end of the chain – a finger or thumb ring. It is likely that is quite large so that you can take it on and off easily. The wearer would have preferred flowers, a signature scent to be worn regularly. Such bouquets were worn partly to defend against the terrible smell of other people. The wearer would take it out with them in the evening. The holder has little legs that come out so the item can stand, for example it could be set on the side during a dance. This item might not be English and the decoration is neo-Gothic. This is a reason for wondering if it is French. Queen Victoria's jewellery collection included similar items, which are held by the Royal Collections Trust, for example she was given one by the Empress Eugenie when they visited Paris in 1855."

Credit line

Purchased with support from the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Grant Fund (National Lottery), the Art Fund and the Dickens Fellowship.
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