Wild tulips originally grew across Asia, often on the slopes of remote mountain ranges; the malleable genes of these progenitors gave rise to tulips’ unrivalled variety of colour and form. In Tulip, Celia Fisher traces the story of this important and highly popular plant, from its mountain beginnings to its cultivation in the gardens of Mughal, Persian and Ottoman potentates, and its migration from East to West along the silk trading routes.
Cultivated oriental hybrids reached European gardens in the sixteenth century, and their unique, intensely saturated petal colour, combined with their rarity, meant that they rapidly became a coveted luxury item in the Netherlands. Tulips in fact inspired such a frenzy among aristocratic collectors that they caused the first economic bubble, which peaked in 1637 and became known as ‘tulipomania’.
The book explores the art and literature that tulips have inspired through history, from Dutch Masters, to Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Black Tulip, to the contemporary artist Gordon Cheung setting exotically streaked tulips alongside the Financial Times. Fisher also describes the tulip’s botanical characteristics, as well as the main, and most intriguing, species (which are still being counted, and well over a hundred have been named). Tulips may yet have the last laugh, however, because recent genetic studies have raised questions about their origins and classification.
Tulip is a stunningly illustrated botanical and cultural history of the much-loved bloom, and will appeal to all who admire and grow this beautiful flower.
Celia Fisher has lectured and written widely on the history of plants and gardens in art. She is the author of many books, including The Medieval Flower Book (2007), Flowers of the Renaissance (2011), Flower: Paintings by 40 Great Artists (2012) and The Golden Age of Flowers (2013).