Tulipmania has stuck in our collective memory as one of the biggest economic calamities to ever strike the western world. The popular narrative holds that in 17th century Holland, homes were mortgaged, reputations were ruined, and livelihoods were lost—all so that tulip bulbs could be bought at higher and higher prices. And when the “bubble” burst, chaos ensued.
In fact, the truth was far less sensational. But contemporary 17th-century artworks can shed some light on the real Tulip Fever, and perhaps give us some clues as to why Tulipmania continues to hold such power over our notions of the Dutch Golden Age.
Today's Images: Jan Breughel the Elder, Still Life with Tulips, Chrysanthemums, Narcissi, Roses, Irises and other Flowers in a Glass Vase (1608-1610). Oil on copper. The National Gallery, London.
Jan Brueghel the Younger, A Satire of Tulip Mania (c. 1640-1650). Oil on Panel. Frans Hals Museum, Netherlands.
Jan Brueghel the Younger, Allegory of Tulipomania (c. 1640-1650). Oil and gold on Panel. Private collection, France.
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