Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669), Frans Hals (1580 – 1666), Jan Havickszoon Steen (1626 – 1679), Judith Jans Leyster (1609 – 1660) and Johannes Vermeer (c1632-1675), all these are artists who combined scientific investigation with visual delight, as represented in their passion for the tulip, a flower whose beauty and social status they recorded for posterity.
Early public records reveal large-scale cultivation of bulbs and roses in the palace gardens at Edirne and Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) in the last quarter of the sixteenth century.
Tiptoe to the window,
by the window that is where I’ll be
Come tiptoe through the tulips with me!
The ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from the Imperial Court of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500 – 1558) at Vienna is reputed to have introduced the cultivated garden tulip into Europe at this time.
However it would be Dutch wealthy merchants who provided a climate that allowed everyone to benefit. Floriculturists in Holland would ensure that the tulip, which grew wild in Anatolia in western Turkey, became an integral aspect of both its culture and its economy
Flowers in Europe and England became associated with the idea of a collection ‘a cabinet of rarities’. As the enormous variation in flower species and their hybrids developed, notably in the case of tulips, numerous florilegium publications further fuelled interest, the earliest dating from 1630.
In England the passion for flowers meant that tulips from Amsterdam were placed into the great collection of ceramic tulip vases, which King William and Queen Mary collected avidly during the second half of the seventeenth century.
Bulbs were planted within each tier and the growing shoots emerged through the open spouts. When they were in bloom they were taken indoors for display. This splendid example one metre high was designed by the Huguenot (French Protestant) designer Daniel Marot (1661–1752) who was retained by King William as his designer. Only a visit to Hampton Court today can reveal its true magnificence, its superb lid made in the shape of a royal crown. Filled with tulips it looks marvelous.
Carolyn McDowall, ©The Culture Concept 2010-2013
The Tulip Anthology by Ron Van Dongen and Anna Pavord is a beautiful and comprehensive celebration of this most astonishing and beloved of flowers. The Tulip was coveted by kings and admired by gardeners in ancient and modern times alike and has nearly brought nations to moral and economic ruin.