Zomerschoon 1620 Fritillaria meleagris and forget-me-nots Tanja Moderscheim

Zomerschoon (1620), Fritillaria meleagris and forget-me-nots, oil on wood panel, 15.5 x 15.5 cm

I’ve always loved history and heritage, and have long admired the tulip paintings of 17th century Holland. A major part of my work is therefore painting heritage tulips and ideally tulips that were fashionable in 17th century Holland, when we were even more under the spell of the tulip than we are today. Tulipmania (“tulpenmanie”or “tulpengekte”) was a period during the 1630s, with a climax in 1636 and crash in 1637, during which prices for some bulbs reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed [Wikipedia and books by Mike Dash and Anna Pavord]. Tulips were popular throughout the century though, having been introduced to Holland in the late 1500s, and high prices were even paid towards the end of the 1600s.

Do any of the tulips from the tulpenmanie period still exist? Yes, old genetic stocks can still be purchased through Hortus Bulborum, a foundation in The Netherlands that preserves heritage tulip cultivars. These tulips are no longer suitable for commercial production so only a handful of bulbs per cultivar can be bought. Sadly, the majority of  the popular ‘broken’ tulips (ie tulips which did not fully develop their colours due to an aphid-spread mosaic virus) have gone extinct due to increased weakness: for example, the legendary Semper Augustus tulip has been lost forever. A single bulb of this tulip is known to have changed hands for 12000 guilders in the 1630s, which is extraordinary given the annual salary of a skilled carpenter was 250 guilders. The only true 17th century broken tulip that still exists today is the virus-tolerant Zomerschoon.

Taking a few years, I have now built an extensive collection of 16th-19th century heritage tulips which I plant in my garden every year (October/November). I then paint series of paintings when the flowers surface, which is from late February onwards. I maintain sketches and a photo library which I use to ensure accuracy of the varieties when painting tulips at other times of the year. I paint the tulips on fine linen, wood panel, 22ct gold or silver.

The jewel in my collection is the rare Zomerschoon tulip which was first introduced in 1620 and was very popular during the Tulpenmanie period. I have 3 bulbs.

In September 2019 I was warmly welcomed as a Fellow Member by the Society of Botanical Artists, UK. The decision was made based on my work on Dutch heritage tulips. For more information about the SBA, please visit www.soc-botanical-artists.org

References: Anna Pavord, “The Tulip”; Mike Dash, “Tulpengekte”, Hortus Bulborum Limmen (www.hortus-bulborum.nl)

Cultivars grown in my garden


Duc van Tol Rood & Geel (1595), Zomerschoon (1620), Lac van Rijn (1620), Duc van Tol Max Cramoisi (1700), Wapen van Leiden (1750), Keizerskroon (1750), Zilver Standaard (1760), Gouden Standaard (1760), Duc van Tol Scharlaken (1850), Tulipa sylvestris (<1600), Red hue (<1700), Paeony gold (<1700), Duc van Tol violet (<1700), Duc van Tol Rose (1700), Absalon Rembrandt (1780), Purple Crown (1785), Rose Louisante fol. var. (1850), Bessie (<1857), Spaendonck (<1893), Zwart en Wit Rembrandt (1780), Duc van Tol Cochineal (1700), Duc van Tol Red & White, Duc van Tol Orange (1700), Augusta (1875), Cerise Gris de Lin (1860), Duc de Berlin (1860), Adonis (1915), Bridesmaid Broken, Gloria Nigrorum (<1837), Helmar, Insulinde (1915), Mabel (<1915), Rubella broken (1903), Royal Souvereign, The Lizard, Viridiflora Red Hue (<1700), Blue Flag (<1750), Tulipa clusiana Stellata (1827), Tulipa heweri, Tulipa polychroma (1885).

Fritilaria imp.Lutea 1665, Fritilaria imp.Profilera 1577,  Fritillaria meleagris 1573.

17th C technique and pigments

I paint my tulips using the classical painting method which was commonly used during the 17th Century in Holland: dead-colouring followed by colour including glazes. I only use the pigments that were available to the 17th C painter: lead white, ceruse, lead-tin yellow, stil de grain/schietgeel, vermillion, madder lake, lapis lazuli, blue verditer, azurite, smalt, malachite, green earth, ochres, sienas, umbers, Cassel earth, and bone black. I use these historical pigments in line with comments published in 17th C Dutch manuscripts and modern academic literature.

Rembrandt tulips post 1760 and Fritillaria Meleagris 1573 by Tanja Moderscheim

Rembrandt tulips post 1760 and Fritillaria Meleagris 1573