The decorative tulip

Books on botany appeared in the second half of the 16th century, the time of the Renaissance with its interest in nature. The images were soon used for a variety of purposes.

When the tulip appeared on the scene, this flower became an instant favorite. It appeared in paintings amid other flowers. In doing so, the flower was depicted true to nature, but appropriate in bouquets with flowers that bloom at other times of the year. The artists made sketches and notes and chose their examples from botany books. From 1620, flowers were also depicted as a kind of still life, loosely on the corner of a table, for example. People not only marveled at the beauty of the new and exotic flower that was the tulip, but paintings with “blomp pots” also had a vanitas meaning, a reference to vanity and transience.

When the trade in tulips became a craze, merchants had the flowering tulips painted piece by piece to later use as a kind of catalog for selling the bulbs. The best example in that area is the tulip book in the possession of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem for which the famous 17th century artist Judith Leyster also provided some images. Tulips also appeared on tiles, on cake boards, samplers, clippings and in the Frans Hals Museum there is a four-poster bed whose curtain is decorated with hundreds of flowers including countless tulips.

In paintings we see how flowers were arranged in pots or jugs, incorporated into wreaths or festoons. Special vases were made for tulips in Delft blue. A kind of pagodas of elements stacked on top of each other with over spouts and openings into which tulips could be inserted. It is mainly these tulip vases that have inspired contemporary artists to create modern versions in glass or ceramics. The Frans Hals Museum has a series of wonderful examples of these that are actually used, especially when the annual display of floral arrangements is organized.


Frans Hals Museum
Visiting address: Groot Heiligland 62, Haarlem
Mailing address : PO Box 3365, 2001 DJ Haarlem
T (023) 511 57 75
E franshalsmuseum@haarlem.n

The Frans Hals Museum is known, among other things, for its annual flower exhibition combined with displays of beautiful bouquets.