A Conversation for Handy Gardening Tips

About the so called famous Dutch "Rembrandt tulips ".

Post 1


An almost weird story I am writing here, "although" about still-life-painters in 17th century Holland. Especially those who painted tulips that had suddenly become magical in those days...

Originally the tulip is a wild flower from Asia (Himalaya mountains), tamed by the Turks and the cultivated tulips came to Holland by way of Clusius, who successfully raised the first European tulips around 1600 in Vienna.
He fled to Holland for religious sanctuary. He took his tulip bulbs with him. Both thrived in the Dutch climate and an industry was born, mainly around Amsterdam.

In Holland it is the so called “Golden Age” for an elite, because of colonies, slavery and normal international trade over sea. So it’s a “Golden Age” with very bloody roots.

When the middle classes began to realize how much money the upper classes spent on tulip bulbs, they sensed a real opportunity to do good business, and so it happened.

But, business in tulips became suddenly very “hot” in 1635, because the tulips became infected by a virus (no one knew that) that caused all kinds of “flames” in red, or yellow, at these flowers, while the forms even became fanciful . Traders did smell a "fool-proof" get-rich-quick opportunity.

Thus "Tulipmania" was born.

Around 1636 bulbs were sold by weight, usually while they were still in the ground. All one had to do to become rich was, to plant these and wait.
Traders could earn as much as 60,000 florins (today approximately 47,000 dollars!) in a month — not a bad commission even by 21th century standards. In Amsterdam a house was sold for three tulip bulbs!
People were desperate to cash in on the bulb-trading frenzy! Small businesses were sold and family homes, farm animals, bedding, furnishings, even dowries, were traded.

These “tulips-on-fire” became also a beloved object for painters.
Around Amsterdam, there was a group of very skilled, still-life painters.
The craftsmanship of these painters reaches its highest level around 1650 and their art became a spell binding beauty. It would take a long time in our 21 th century to reach that same level again, if wished. It is far different than painting very precisely. That’s 19th century "naturalism".

What the painters in these days is concerned;
One of the painters was Judith Leyster; a female(!) master painter.
Although she did paint mainly common people in her own town,like her master Frans Hals did, still her name is connected to tulips.

Well, like modern man today, 2007, we first want to see in an add, what a product is all about, before we buy anything. The same in these historical days. A tulip is only flowering just a few weeks in a year. So these businessmen wanted to have “tulipbooks” to show what kind of flower a buyer could expect.

One of these tulipbooks is called “Judith Leyster Tulip Book”, although there are only two paintings in that book with her name, and only óne of these is really painted by herself; page 29. It’s in the Frans Hals Museum in Holland.


There are now in 2007 just about 20 tulipbooks from these days, spread all over the world now. Millions of dollars if you want one. About 20 million for one book.

And what the real still-life-flower-painters in those days is concerned who were fascinated by these so called tulips-on-fire, see other pictures at that same site, like
P.S. The pictures can be enlarged.

To finish here the history of the tulip mania around 1635.
The bottom suddenly fell out of the market in 1637 when a gathering of bulb merchants could not get the usual inflated prices for their bulbs. Word quickly spread, and the market dramatically crashed.

Thousands of Dutch businessmen, including many of the country's leading economic power brokers, were ruined in less than two months' time — extremely rapid deployment of bad news for 1637!

How a virus becomes magical!

If one wants to get “some of that history” in their own garden, there are two ways.

1) Try to get the real bulbs that are directly linked to their historic variety from around 1635.
These are for sale (some of these in small quantities)
and within an inner circle of farmers/ hybridizers in Holland.
But, these bulbs are without a virus, so rather "dull". It's forbidden to sell these with the virus.

Just in 1960 it became clear what kind of virus infected the tulips.
It is called "the mosaic virus" and it can be found in fruit trees.
If tulips grow under these, then they may jump also at the tulips...
and that's the way these preferred....

2) Dutch hybridizers have bred nice "look-a-like" flowers that duplicate the flushed look of the tulips during the mania around 1635.
The distinguishing feature: a light colored tulip with deep red, purple or ox-blood broken stripes, flushes or "flames."

Among many 20th century cultivars are some look-a-likes;

Red and white 'Union Jack',
Orange flushed with purple ‘Princes Irene’,
White and purple flecked 'Shirley',
Deep rose and white 'Sorbet',
and primrose yellow and raspberry ’Mona Lisa’.

For tourists,all these varieties of look-a-likes together are called “Rembrandt tulips”, although there is not one real cultivar with that official name and Rembrandt himself did not paint many flowers at all. It’s a useful tourist brand name - not dishonest - that gives tourists a helping hand when they have fallen in love by the beauty of still-life-tulip paintings from the old days, when even Dutch people were spelled by beauty, greed and passion.

Times may change, our human emotions don't.
We are just the same, as they were then.
All family of the same human species.

Greetings from Amsterdam.

Other famous still-life-flower(!)- painters from these days are;

Adriaen Coorte painted from 1683 - 1707. city of Middelburg.

Jan van Huysum lived from 1682 - 1749. city of Amsterdam.

Rachel Ruysch (female) 1644 - 1750. city of Amsterdam.

Daniel Seghers 1590 - 1661. city of Antwerpen.

As in many countries; foreigners do know more about it’s art than it’s own inhabitants

Better Links Frans Hals museum

Post 2









Pictures can be enlarged.

Key: Complain about this post

About the so called famous Dutch "Rembrandt tulips ".

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more