In the year 1636, a single tulip bulb allegedly was traded for, among other items, four fat oxen, eight fat swine, two tons of butter, a suit of clothes and a silver drinking cup.
At the Dr. Rafael Angel Calderón Guardia Museum in San José on Tuesday, girls in clogs were handing them out to a jostling crowd for free.
Although the tulip may have lost its power in the economic sense, appreciation of the symbolic flower has by no means waned.
At the launch of the museum’s latest exhibition called “The Tulip, aesthetic appreciations of a Dutch icon,” Dutch Ambassador to Costa Rica Matthijs van Bonzel said, “In this exhibition the protagonist is one of Holland’s most well-known symbols: the tulip.
“It is a flower of significant economic, political, historical and artistic importance and was even eaten by Dutch communities isolated during the World War II’s winter of 1944.”
The month-long exhibit consists of 26 works of art inspired by the bulbous flower that was introduced to Europe from the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th century.
Twenty-one renowned Costa Rican artists – including Francisco Munguía, Rafa Fernández, Rolando Garita and Miguel Casafont – share the gallery walls with five artists from Holland, including Johannes Boekhoudt and Margreet Wielemaker.
Referring to his acrylic representation of the tulip, “Extasis,” Miguel Casafont said, “I usually paint Costa Rican tropical plants – subjects that are certainly more aggressive than the tulip in their color and shape – so this work was much more delicate.
“I must have gone through nearly 50 tulips in the three weeks that it took me to paint this. But that’s fine because they are now decorating my house.”
Artist Rolando Cubero, referring to his oil painting of a bare-chested beauty surrounded by tulips, entitled “Ave gratia plena,” said that he “played around with a few concepts here, and the final product is as much contemporary as it is classical.”
The exhibition is on until Dec.4, 2009.