Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Flowers of the Dutch Golden Age Masters. Semper Augustus and the Viceroy

Some of the flowers painted by Ambrosious Bosschaert the Elder and other members of his dynasty (see previous article on this) were not exactly common in XVII century Netherlands. The flamed tulips commonly seen in most of these paintings were precious in those times, they were well beyond the reach of even middle class people.

 “Semper Augustus” and “Viceroy” tulips

These were rare and very expensive tulips. For instance a single “Viceroy” (bottom right) tulip bulb would be priced between 3,000 – 4,000 guilders, at a time when a skilled craftsman would earn around 150 guilders a year. The “Semper Augustus” (see at right) was around 1,000 guilders in 1623 and went all the way to around 5,000 guilders by 1637 (see picture at right. Therefore, having a painting that included these and other flowers was a lot cheaper and less risky than having the real thing. 

Interestingly enough, the “flaming” was caused by a virus that “broke” the colors in the flower. Today similar tulips can be bought normally but the flaming effect is a courtesy of modern genetics. 

In the “Bosschaert” style photo seen at left, you can peruse and find a “Semper Augustus” alike tulip. I have used these profusely in my “Bosschaert” collection. You can browse the gallery here or by clicking the tab at the top of this page.

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