When you think of Holland, one of the things that
comes to your mind is probably the tulip.
Tulips are more or less the national the symbol of
the country, together with the wooden shoes, wind
mills and the diamond trade.
The tulip (from the Latin 'Tulipa'), meaning 'Like
a Turban', originates from the Ottoman Empire,
In 1562, the first tulip bulbs came to Europe when
the Austrian ambassador Ogier Gisleen van
Busbeke at the court of Kanuni Sultan Süleyman I
of Turkey, sent a few tulip seeds to Austria after
seeing them for the first time in 1551.
What was the reason people in those days would page
through a tulip brochure and pay such enormous prices for a
The tulip was new to Holland at the end of the 16th century
and like all novelties, the flower grew in popularity as the
flower was very different to what people were used to.
A period known as the 'Golden Age', roughly 100 years of
enormous economical, military and cultural growth, thanks to
international trade and the revenues of the colonies all over
the world, brought riches and wealth to the merchants.
The Dutch upper class embraced the tulip and used the
flower to flash around their wealth by erecting gardens with
Thus it became a luxury product and a status symbol, like
you would buy an expensive car or clothes.
Because of the rarity and high profits, a trade in tulips was
inevitable and florists as well as tulip traders made good
Tulips came in different colors but a virus changed the look of the tulip.
Very extra-ordinary varieties emerged and it is in fact this 'happy accident', officially
called the 'Mosaic Virus', that made the tulip even more valuable, rocketing the prices
The flower developed various color schemes which made the tulip look even more
exotic, but the tulip with yellow and/or white stripes on brown-, purple- and red
colored patels, the Semper Augustus or so-called 'Bizarres' tulip, became the most
appreciated and most expensive tulip of all.
No need to say this craziness of excessive profit making wouldn't last forever
(even though the merchants thought otherwise) and of course, it didn't.
The ever increasing prices of tulips led to the downfall of the trade. Fewer people
were willing to pay the higher prices and the devaluation was inevitable.
The turning point came in early 1637 when traders had great difficulty finding
buyers for their bulbs.
The period in which merchants became rich lasted roughly around 30 years and
as the trade crumbled abruptly, it caused an economic disaster that would hurt
the Dutch economy for years to come.
Tulip Mania or 'Tulipomania', was a period in the 17th century when tulips, or even a
single tulip bulb, were worth a small fortune. To give you an idea of the value of just
one tulip or bulb, mulitiply a very decent year income by 10...
It is recorded that in 1623 a single bulb was sold for as much as fl 1,000 (Florins or
Dutch Guilders), while in 1635 a record value of fl 2,500 was payed. By comparison,
that would buy you a nice brand new car today !
NATIONAL SYMBOL OF HOLLAND
Sultan Süleyman I
A Satire of Tulip Mania by Jan Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1640)
A new flower gets popular
Admiral Verijck (van der Eijck) (1637)
Semper Augustus (ca. 1640)
Florilegium Plate 10 (1647)
Tulip Mosaic Virus
Still- Life with Flowers by Hans Bollongier (1639)
Nothing lasts forever...
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