Saturday, July 20, 2019

Tulipmania: Art & Culture

When I see tulips, all I can think of is Tulipmania. You may think I am strange, but when we were in Holland, walking by the tulip fields, I wondered how much all these tulips would have cost to create these extraordinary fields. You will feel the same once you learn more about this interesting period in history! 

A 19th Century interpretation of Tulipmania - The Tulip Folly 1882 by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Tulipmania was a period when tulips were introduced to the Dutch Republic during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century). Due to the lucrative trading business of the Dutch East Indies Trade (one trip could yield 400% in profits), the Dutch started exporting the flower from the Turkey (where the flower was already a status symbol), and eventually, the flower grew in popularity because it was so exotic. However, there are quite a few outlandish stories about this period that make it seem way more interesting than it is, but I still find the real facts to be interesting! :) 

The period got its name because tulips increased in price rapidly and the tulips became a luxury good. The tulip market was such huge economic power, that it became a future market, as the tulip traders & florists would buy contracts from merchants at the beginning of the year for bulbs at the end of the season. This type of market business was new to the Dutch Republic. 

Dutch tulips growers would constantly be cultivating new strains of the tulip and would pay extraordinary amounts of money for the rare strains. The rarest tulip group was called Bizarden (pictured above in a Dutch catalog), which was a tulip with yellow or white streaks on a dark purple/red/brown background. This variety was the most exotic looking & therefore the most sought after. However, the tulip actually got this appearance from a virus (the mosaic virus) in the flower that caused the color to break in the petal & actually slowed down the tulip growth process. During the peak time of Tulipmania, a single tulip of the Bizarden style could be sold for 10 times the annual income of a craftworker! By 1636, the tulip bulb became the fourth leading export product of the Netherlands, after gin, herrings, and cheese

This tulip obsession in Dutch society was not loved by all. Interestingly enough, the Calvinist religious group created propaganda against tulip trade because they were worried tulip trade was going to lead to societal decay. They even fabricated a story of a man accidentally eating a tulip bulb because he thought it was an onion and so he was thrown in jail. They also created stories of foolish fisherman trying to use the tulip market to instantly become rich, which was also not true because only merchants and the rich were really involved in the tulip market. 

Vase of Flowers, 1660. Jan Davidsz de Heem 
In art, the love of the tulip is well documented. Dutch artists would create beautiful flower still life paintings that included the tulip. However, the use of flowers in still life art sometimes had an alternative meaning - the brevity of life & vanitas. Vanitas was a Dutch still life theme that warned against vanity because your life would eventually end. Flowers were one of the symbols for this because once they are cut, their life will quickly be ended. 

A Satire of Tulip Mania 1640. Jan Brueghel the Younger
Along with the pretty still life pictures that showed tulips, Dutch artists also enjoyed commenting on the tulip craze in the art. For example, Jan Brueghel the Younger created this painting of monkeys trading tulips to comment on the foolish merchants that were spending too much money on a flower. In the painting, you can see the monkeys in the upper-class dress and also see different stages of tulip mania. 

Wagon of Fools. 1637. Hendrik Gerritsz Pot
Another popular comment on Tulipmania can be seen in Hendrik Gerritsz Pot's depiction of the Flora's Mallewagen, which was a popular subject matter that criticized the tulip trade. Here, you see the foolish tulip traders abandoning everything for the tulips. Creating a flag dedicated to tulips & wearing tulips on their heads. The two-faced goddess for Fortune is shown, which also comments on how easily things will switch for these tulip traders. 

While Tulipmania was so big, it did eventually experience a crash in 1637. The prices regulated and extreme passion subsided. However, tulips are still popular in Holland. The tulip market is still a future market, and farmers are still developing new tulip strains today. 

I am thankful for the Dutch love of tulips because I got to enjoy the beautiful fields while I was there. If you go, do make sure you ask for permission before entering the fields! You can damage the bulbs, and the farmers work hard in their fields. Just remember the history of the Dutch tulip and know that one of those bulbs used to cost a lot of money, haha! 


Speaking of tulips, in fashion, there are tulip-shaped silhouettes & hems that mimic the style of the tulip! Do you know what I am talking about? I am now going to try a new feature in my blog posts where I find clothing items that are for sale & relate to the subject matter of my post! Here are a few: 

Cute Alice & Olivia dress with a tulip hem 

Cute little tulips on this graphic tee!

This Dutch Still Life inspired dress 

Cute Tulip Necklace 

Thanks so much for following along! If you made it this far in my post, you are awesome & deserve a tulip, haha! I have loved researching this and hope you enjoyed reading this! Did you know about Tulipmania? Let me know below!


Friday, June 28, 2019

Butterflies & How They Influenced Art

Last week, I went to Thanksgiving Point's Butterfly Biosphere with my sister and my nephew. I had never been to a butterfly biosphere and it was a super unique experience!

When I was young, my sister Donna got to go to Toronto with my mom and they went to a butterfly museum. She came back from the trip with a picture of her sitting next to the world's biggest butterfly and it looked so cool. I remember being so jealous that she got to do it! But in the end, I am super happy that I got to experience it for the first time with my sister, Donna, and my nephew, Theo. 

It was so fun going with Theo because he was so vocal about everything, even though he is only two years old. He was a little scared, but he also kept saying they looked so beautiful (queue heart melting). 

Before going, I did a bit of research on what colors butterflies are attracted to. It isn't hard to guess the colors, but I wanted to be sure. The colors are yellow, white, pink, purple, red, & orange. Blue and green are actually their least favorite! Which makes sense since they are usually collecting nectar from flowers of in those color options! Once I figured out a good color, I planned my outfit accordingly (of course!). 

So I chose yellow, which was super convenient since I am on the color yellow for my Instagram feed! I definitely created this expectation in my mind of butterflies landing all over me, LOL. While one can dream, it was much calmer in there than I anticipated! There was less of the butterflies landing on me & more of me trying to get landed butterflies to walk on my hand (which actually worked & is totally safe for the butterflies). 

After my little trip to the Butterfly Biosphere, I wanted to learn more & was also thinking about how beautiful and inspiring the butterfly is! 

While I could share many facts about butterflies, I thought it would be more fun to show butterflies in art! :) I won't go into much detail, because this post has already gotten a bit long, but I do want to share so fun things that I like!
First off, Butterflies showed up in art artifacts over 4,000 years ago but really took form in art in later years. For centuries, butterflies were a symbol of sunshine, beauty, freedom, & even the cycle of life. We start to seem more strong butterfly use in the artwork of the 16th century, like this Pieter Bruegel painting that I just saw when I was in Brussels: 

Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel (1562): you can see butterfly wings on a rebel angel - the swallowtail butterfly species in particular. It is very interesting that a rebel angel would have butterfly wings! 
Even though butterflies were considered a symbol of great things like freedom, certain butterfly species were considered a bad omen. Such as the Red Admiral Butterfly, which was considered a symbol for "evil" and since red was considered a dangerous color in nature. So it is not surprising that Bruegel gave a rebel angel butterfly wings. 

Another beautiful painting with butterflies is this painting by Italian artist Dossi Dossi called Jupiter Painting Butterflies, Mercury and Virtue (1522-24). 

Here you can see Jupiter painting the butterflies on the canvas. Because he is a God, the butterflies fly off the canvas as he brings them to life using his paintbrush. 

During the 18th century, Butterflies became a big symbol for the cycle of life & was thought to be a reassurance of an afterlife. Like the caterpillar, we are trapped on this earth. We live a short life and eventually die. When we die, we are put into a coffin, or chrysalis, when it comes to the butterfly. Just like the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis and is reborn, we too can be reborn in heaven. 

During the 19th century, especially for impressionists & post-impressionists, butterflies remained a symbol of beauty. Vincent Van Gogh did a few paintings with butterflies and I find them all to be captivating. 

Two White Butterflies (1889)

Grass and Butterflies (1889)

Butterflies & Poppies (1889)

These three are fun depictions of the innocence of butterflies & I love the simplicity in the way that Van Gogh portrayed them. I also think the last painting might be a new Van Gogh favorite! 

I also love the colors in this Salvador Dali painting: 

Landscape with Butterflies (1956). There isn't much known about this painting, but it does have Dali's surrealist style with the glowing butterflies and this dream-like setting. 
Lastly, Damien Hirst created this extravagant artwork called I Am Become Death, Shatterer of Worlds (2006), in which he comments on the brevity of life (a concept that has been around in art for a very long time), and does so by creating his art using thousands of dead butterflies. From the website: 
“I’ve got an obsession with death … But I think it’s like a celebration of life rather than something morbid" - Damien Hirst.  
"The ‘Kaleidoscope’ paintings reference the spiritual symbolism of the butterfly, used by the Greeks to depict Psyche, the soul, and in Christian imagery to signify the resurrection. The works are reminiscent of, and even sometimes directly copy stained glass windows "
This interesting reference shows the depth of the butterfly, and the long history of interpretations through the years.

Lastly, I want to share one of my favorite custom designs from the past. I always think of this when I think of butterflies in art and it was just in the Hunger Games movie! 

I hope you enjoyed my random post about butterflies! I have been so behind on all my blog posts, so I hope this makes up for lost time! :)