Monday, February 15, 2010

Documentary- The Botany of Desire

I recently watched Botany of Desire.  It was an interesting look at the relationship between humans and plants. Apples, Tulips, Marijuana, and Potatoes' histories are examined.  The premise is that while we think we are getting the plants to do what we want them to do, the plants are actually benefiting from our interest and cultivation (think bees and flowers). I found it incredibly interesting and would recommend to anyone who enjoys documentaries and is in any way fond of plants and gardening.

Broken Tulips proved to be the most interesting topic to me. The beautiful colors and patterns were caused by a non-lethal mosaic virus. The Dutch, at the time of Tulip Mania, were shelling out the equivalent of a year's pay to have a Broken Tulip bulb. It was quite the status symbol!  Some were "trading farm houses for three rare bulbs".    All for the showy sex organs of a plant with a virus!   photo by rdoroshenko on flickr 

And all of this got me to wondering.... how much did the floral arrangements for Dutch still life paintings cost? It isn't hard to find a broken tulip in many of the pieces. This leads to another question: at what price did the other flowers come? I imagine that people must have been thrown in jail over the theft of a tulip or even sent to some sort of debtors' prison when they could not pay the loan back on a bulb. Can you imagine an up-and-coming artist running around at night to steal a flower or two for a painting in hopes of getting recognition for their painting?
  Paintings by Jan Davidsz. deHeem  and Rachel Ruysch

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