”Everything he sees speaks tulip to him. Comely women are tulips; their skirts are petals, swinging around the pollen-dusted stigmas of their legs.”
Amsterdam in the 1630s was considered one of the richest cities in the world. Trade had been very good for the Dutch. Citizens were becoming very civilized with a growing interest in music and a need for art hanging in their homes. The painters of the city were kept busy with commissions as wealthy people not only wanted fine paintings on their walls, but also wished to immortalize themselves on canvas as well. Tulipmania is in full blossom as speculators buy and sell bulbs for ridiculous amounts of money. Oxen, houses, special favors are exchanged for a few delicate globes.
It was a mania, verging on hysteria. Men were wagering fortunes on one bulb’s ascendency. People were making so much money that those of a more conservative nature were starting to feel stupid for not being in on the game. Of course, what goes up, as they say, must come down.
Living against this backdrop of wild speculation and feverish conjecture is Cornelis Sandvoort. He is a man of above average means and in some circles would even be considered to be wealthy. He collects art. He invests in ships. His most recent acquisition is the lovely Sophia. She is much too young for him, but her family was impoverished. Cornelis is not only generous to her family, but also kind. He lost his first wife and his two boys. He wants a son so that this modest empire he is building will continue long after he is gone.
Though past his prime, the tender flesh of the beautiful Sophia is all the Viagra he needs.
”For three years we have been married and I have not produced a child. This is not through lack of trying. My husband is still a vigorous man in this respect. At night he mounts me; he spreads my legs and I lie there like an upturned beetle pressed down by a shoe.”
A vivid description to be sure. The passion is all one sided. During this act Sophia tries to keep her nose turned away so that his dreadful breath will not cause her to gag. She is too young yet to know that a moan here and a wiggle there will shorten the duration of Cornelis’s assault.
Cornelis is proud of Sophia and decides that a family portrait is in order. He can afford it after all. As her beauty fades it will still be trapped in the paint laid by the artist’s hands. Did someone mentioned laid?
The painter Jan Van Loos has a mop of unruly hair and symmetrical features. Most importantly he is young, and Sophia felt the biological groin tug of desire. There is no need to speculate about whether she will doink the painter. It is more of a question of when.
Cornelis is a trusting man. It never crosses his mind that his bride might seek pleasure in the arms of a mere painter. After all, he saved her and her whole family from starving to death. Even if she can’t love him, she should at least be grateful.
As the plot spins forward, Deborah Moggach does add some interesting twists. The story certainly carries a moral point. Sophia’s actionS affect more than just herself. Besides the embarrassment for her husband, her decisions fling a wider net than she could even anticipate. Throw a rock in a pond, and watch the ripples slowly undulate from shore to shore. It is hard to anticipate the full extent of our actions, especially when we break promises, start to lie, recruit co-conspirators, and play the tulip lottery in the hopes of scoring big.
What could possibly go wrong?
Tulips are fascinating. In the 1630s, they didn’t know that the most beautiful specimens are actually the result of a viral disease. They are spectacular mutations that fill our eyes with vibrant colors and fanciful ornate markings. Sophia, as beautiful as the most rare tulip, takes the chance that spring will always be in season and winter will never have the chance to make her lose her petals.
Burning Heart Tulip, so apt for our young Sophia.
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