Tulips From Amsterdam

“When spring comes I will send you tulips from Amsterdam,” is part of the text of the famous song of Herman Emmink from 1957. For centuries, we consider the tulip as a traditional Dutch flower, but originally the tulip comes from Central Asia and arrived via Turkey to Holland in the sixteenth century. Now the tulip is, beside the clog and mill, a national symbol of the Netherlands.

Majolica plate and tile with tulip(s), circa 1625-1650
Majolica plate and tile with tulip(s), circa 1625-1650

At the end of the sixteenth century, the tulip in the Low Countries was known by a select few. These were mostly botanists and collectors. But from 1600 the flower quickly gained popularity. The bulb was a coveted trade and speculation object. In the thirties of the seventeenth century, trade and speculation took on such proportions that a single tulip bulb sometimes sold for thousands of guilders. A bulb was worth as much as an Amsterdam canalhouse. Inevitably the bubble burst in 1637. Many speculators saw dissipate their expected profit and got into financial difficulties.

Nevertheless, the tulip remains popular. On still life paintings the flower is still a regularly subject. But also on ceramics and tiles this beloved flower was widely applied. In several buildings in Amsterdam are reflected tulip motifs. In Agnietenkapel (St Agnes Chapel), the cradle of the University of Amsterdam, the beams and the ceiling of the auditoriums in the seventeenth century were decorated with tendrils and tulip motifs.

Decorative metalwork skylight at Keizersgracht 105
Decorative metalwork skylight at Keizersgracht 105

But also in 20th-century buildings this flower is immortalized. A wonderful example of wrought iron can be found in the building on Keizersgracht 105 by architect F. A. Warners who in 1938 designed it for broadcasting corporatrion AVRO. Between the vestibule and the wide aisle is an enclosed porch set with sidelights and transom with ornamental ironwork. The ironwork of the transom is fitted with a tulip motif.

And anno 2016, the tulip is still loved. Consider the Tulip Day on Dam Square, which is organized annually to kick off the tulip season or the many tourists who can visit the Keukenhof starting again today. This year the theme of the flower park is: The Golden Age. In Amsterdam the Tulip Festival is organized, this year its the second edition in April, the festival is hoping for a new tulip craze, but without the dramatic consequences of yesteryear.

3 thoughts on “Tulips From Amsterdam

  1. in my back yard, the deer eat my tulips. 😦 they bite the flowers off before they have a chance to bloom.

    for 2017, the theme of the philadelphia flower show (the oldest flower show in this country!) will be “tulips = holland”.

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