Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Midas Touch
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.