Monday, January 23, 2012

Tulip Mania (or not) Forever at My House - Day 16

Walk: Mindful Body, yoga class, back, use strength to hold cat still for 6 week appointment with her groomer.
Distance: 8 blocks

On either Sunday or Monday (today) I refresh the flowers around my home. Today there are a couple of batches of cut tulips I must decide to keep or return to compost.

I've always said that if I had lived in Holland during the peak of Tulip Mania (1636-37), I would have ended up in debtors prison. There's now some debate whether this infamous bubble affected many people or indeed whether it existed at all. Be that as it may - along with whether Holland or the Netherlands are the same place - I am mad for tulips.

The introduction of the tulip to Europe is usually attributed to Ogier de Busbecq, the ambassador of Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor to the Sultan of Turkey, who sent the first tulip bulbs and seeds to Vienna in 1554 from the Ottoman Empire. Tulip bulbs were soon distributed from Vienna to Augsberg, Antwerp and Amsterdam. Its popularity and cultivation in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands) is generally thought to have started in earnest around 1593 after the Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius had taken up a post at the University of Leiden and established the hortus academicus. He planted his collection of tulip bulbs and found they were able to tolerate the harsher conditions of the Low Countries; shortly thereafter the tulip began to grow in popularity. (Wikipedia 'Tulip Mania')

Tulip Mania or not, tulips were the beloved flower of the new and wildly prospering merchant class of the Dutch Golden Age. The tulip was different from every other flower known to Europe at that time, with a saturated, intense petal color that no other plant exhibited and it quickly became a status symbol among the new merchant class. Grand estates were erected, surrounded by flower gardens with the sensational tulip having pride of place. Countless oil still lifes and portraits of tulips were painted or etched into glass or silver by the burgeoning artist class who crafted art and objects to fill the estates. Perhaps the most coveted of the many tulip varieties, natural and cultivated, is said to have been the variegated Admirael van der Eijck.

The tulip was also coveted by members of court society during the Tulip Era (1718-1730) of the Ottoman Empire. The Tulip Era saw a flowering of arts, culture and architecture. Generally the style of architecture and decoration became more elaborate, being influenced by the Baroque period in movement. A classic example is the Fountain of Ahmed III in front of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The architectural style is a fusion of classical Islamic elements with baroque European ones, making it into distinct Ottoman architecture of the 18th century.

The tulip was also praised in poetry and motifs used in paintings. To this day in modern Turkey the tulip is still considered the embodiment of perfection and beauty. Turkish Airlines decorates its planes with a painting of a tulip on its fuselage. (Wikipedia, 'Tulip Period')

Here too in my humble San Francisco abode, cut tulips we Bay Area residents are privileged to be able to purchase well ahead of their one month April/May growing season have place of honor from the time their buds peek out of their long leaves to their curvacious and dramatic finale. I'm not yet ready to let these entertaining friends go.