Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Midas Touch

The Midas Touch, 8 x 10 in. encaustic mixed media

It's never just a flower for me. There is always some underlying reason why I choose to highlight one flower over another in my work. Tulips have an interesting history that we can learn from.

Tulips are native to the western Mediterranean and the steppes of Central Asia. The empire of the Ottoman Turks once included much of the land that was the natural habitat of the tulip. It was through Turkey that most of the tulips reached Western Europe.

The shape of the tulip reminded those first Europeans who acquired them of Turkish headwear, and they dubbed the flower "tulipan", from "tuilbend", a Turkish word for "turban". The Italian word tulipano came from the Turkish word tulibend. From "tulipan" came the French word "tulipe" and the English word tulip.

The Turks cultivated the tulip widely and in 1562 the first large shipment of tulips reached Antwerp, then part of the Dutch nation. It is hard to believe that there was a time in the 1630's when the desire for highly prized tulips created through horticultural experimentation led to "tulipomania" . At that time tulips were available only to the rich who coveted them for their beauty, rarity and status. Once middle class merchants and farmers began to realize how much money was involved in the tulip trade they sensed economic opportunity. Everyone wanted in. The bottom fell out of the market during 1637 when bulb merchants couldn't get the usual inflated prices for their bulbs. Word spread like wildfire and the market crashed. Vanity and greed led to the economic downfall of many men at that time. Sound familiar?

This work reflects the tulip as a prized object, cultivated and desired through history. Today interest in new varieties of tulips remains high. The yellow parrot tulips represented on the right side of the work are very popular. The left side of the work alludes to some of the history of the tulip.


Margie said...

How beautiful!
Love your work!


Margaret Ryall said...

Margie, (also the name I am know by in my family) Thanks for dropping by. Isn't it great how connections can be so easily made with our finger clicks?

layers said...

Its good to make connections with your work-- adds meaning and understanding for why you chose to paint it in the first place.

Gina Cuff said...

I'll never look at tulips the same again! Thanks for the fascinating info, Margaret. And your painting is stunning, as is all your work!

Margaret Ryall said...


The world of flowers is quite fascinating historically because they have been around from the beginning. Poor things get a bum deal all the time as pretty and vacant! There's much to be learned.

Poetic Artist said...

How wonderful.
I do love your work.

Kathy said...

Your explanation of the history of the tulip is so informative. I didn't know any of it! And, it makes your painting so meaningful. I like this one - it works on so many levels. The juxtaposition of organic shapes on the right with lineation on the left is perfectly proportioned and they balance each other. Use of a muted palette, limited range of values, and soft edges creates the effect of looking through a veil - mystery and hidden meaning. Beautiful!

-Don said...

A history lesson, a sociological metaphor, and a great piece of art. All important in a well-rounded diet. Thank you.

I agree with everything that Kathy said in her wonderfully concise and articulate way. The only thing I have to add is that the analogous color scheme in this one is one of my favorites.

Beautiful job, -Don