Tiptoe Through the Tulips


September 1, 2017, will see the release of the movie Tulip Fever, written by Tom Stoppard and starring Alicia Vikander, Dane DeHaan and Christophe Waltz, a historical drama set in the Netherlands in the 17th century, during the period of the tulip mania.
Tulip mania was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which prices for bulbs of the recently introduced tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637. It is generally considered the first recorded speculative bubble – centuries before the dot-com bubble of the 1990's or the US housing market collapse in 2008.

Below: from Carlton Hobbs, a tulip-form silver pokal by Simon Lang and marked with the Hebrew letters Aleph Shin Aleph, Nuremberg, circa 1660.

It's not hard to understand how this much-loved flower, introduced in the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire, became such an overnight success. It was different from every other flower known to Europe at that time, with a saturated intense petal color that no other plant had, and quickly became a status symbol for the affluent Dutch traders.

Below, from Arader Galleries: Tulipa Suaveolons, Plate 111, 1802-1816, hand-colored stipple engraving by botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté.

Tulips quickly became a coveted luxury item, and many varieties were cultivated. Among the more curious and rare was the Bizarden or Bizarre Tulip, which had yellow or white streaks of color over a purple or red petal. It is now known that this effect is due to the bulbs being infected with a type of tulip-specific mosaic virus, known as the Tulip breaking virus, so called because it "breaks" the one petal color into two or more.

Below left: from Haynes Fine Art,  Spring by Cecil Kennedy, British 1905 – 1997, Oil on canvas, signed lower right.
Below right: from Lang Antiques, enameled tulip brooch rendered in rich 18 karat yellow gold and green emeralds.

To this day, the Netherlands remains synonymous with the tulip, as is evident in the 1950's hit Tulips from Amsterdam and the ever-growing popularity of the Keukenhof gardens, the world’s largest flower garden (80-acres) and a horticultural essay in superlatives, which attracts more than 700,000 visitors each year. Every year, Keukenhof showcases over seven million tulips – as well as hyacinths and daffodils - ablaze with pink, red, purple, yellow, lavender and orange. Enjoy!

Below, Keukenhof image via Baby Apple