Exhibitions

Lille blomsterkarse (Tropaeolum L.), KKSgb2950/11

a: Citrus limon; (almindelig citron); b: Citrus limon; (almindelig citron), frugt; c: Citrus maxima; (pompelmus), frugt, KKSgb2948-63

Frederick III – duke and patron of the arts and sciences

In the 17th century Frederick III commissioned the flower painter Hans Simon Holtzbecker to create the Gottorfer Codex, an extensive collection of flower paintings on vellum. The precious manuscripts were intended to confer upon the duke the prestige that he could no longer win by waging war.

Unknown artist, Duke Frederick III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, 1639. The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg. Photo: Kit Weiss

Unknown artist, Duke Frederick III of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, 1639. The Museum of National History at Frederiksborg. Photo: Kit Weiss

Frederick III’s duchy was tied to Denmark by a union agreement. It stipulated that Denmark and the duchy were obliged to help each other if attacked, and that they could only wage war if mutually agreed. Given that Denmark was the strongest of the two Frederick III had to yield to the Danish king. This prevented Frederick III from using foreign policy efforts to further his reputation. But at that time it was important for the aristocracy to build a reputation and win prestige.

A centre of art and science

In lieu of prestige-conferring military conquests Frederick III aimed to make Gottorf a Northern European centre for science and art. Science was fashionable among the leading princes of Europe at the time, and so offered Frederick III a chance of winning the prestige he coveted. To Frederick III his cabinet of curiosities, the florilegium known as the Gottorfer Codex and the new garden begun in 1637 were all part of a single scientific project.

Seized by tulip mania

Like many other garden owners in the 17th century the duke, too, was seized by an almost manic interest in the tulip. The affliction was called tulip mania, or, in German, Tulpenraserei. The tulip first became known in Europe in the 16th century. It was imported from Turkey where wild tulips had been cultivated for their beauty for some time. The tulip soon grew very popular in Europe, and variants with variegated petals were favoured over the uniformly coloured. The Gottorfer Codex only features variegated tulips. However, it was not known at the time that these tulips were variegated because they had been attacked by a virus. The disease caused the petals to become stripy because the affected areas lost their colour.

The tulip crash

The bulbs of variegated tulips were sold at very high prices. By the 1630s the sought-after bulbs had become inordinately costly, and trade in tulip bulbs had become a market for speculation in the Netherlands. A "tulip bubble" had formed, and in February 1637 the bubble burst. The first-ever financial crash had arrived, causing countless people to go bankrupt.

Den populære sørge-iris (Iris susiana L.) fra blomsterbogen Gottorfer Codex.

Den populære sørge-iris (Iris susiana L.) fra blomsterbogen Gottorfer Codex.


Updated: 15.oct.2014
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