Semper Augustus

Once upon a time, the Semper Augustus caused an epidemic. An epidemic of prodigality and cunning calculation. She, the queen of tulips, with all her colourful sisters behind her, created a passionate addiction in avaricious or day-dreaming hearts. Not just in Vienna, Paris or in the Low Countries, but also in the Rhineland, where only a short while ago the Thirty Years War reigned with pestilence, hunger and cannibalis , and where people now discovered anew that life can be pleasurable.  The epidemic was over its top when the small Maria Sybilla stole a specimen from the garden from one count Ruitmer in the city of Frankfurt am Main, where she was born. Its price had plummeted after the West-European countries set limits to the trade in tulip bulbs. While the Semper Augustus, in its best years, was worth a house or a mill, and had served as object of speculation, her price had now dived to that of a hunting dog or a pig.  Nevertheless, the tulip wsa as sublime as ever, with her spotlessly white and lightly feathered petals with their crimson arteries, and her receptacle as blue as a summer sky. Both she and her citron-yellow, salmon-pink and fiery red sisters with their coal-black hearts were cherished like gems. They were to be found behind the garden gates of rich and titled residents of the city, protected from theft by smart burglar alarms. [Inez van Dullemen, Maria Sibylla, page 9, my translation]

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