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In the 18th century Istanbul was the apogee of the passion for trees, flowers, gardens and tulips in particular. Pleasure was sought in tulip gardens during day time while poetry and musical evenings took place illuminated by candles on tortoise back protected by glass shades.
A new period began in Ottoman arts with the ascendancy of illuminators, and in particular, of Levni; paintings were sent back to the capital from Paris by Mehmed Said Pasha, the Ottoman ambassador. Furniture and clothing that came from Paris began to promote Western fashions in the Ottoman capital.
A refined entertainment culture developed during the Tulip Era. The legendary Kagithane parties and the magnificent Sadabad palace deserve a mention each at this point. All this took place against a backdrop of tulips, like a symbol.
What was it that had triggered this sudden passion for tulips? Where did tulips come from? While the precise origin of tulips is not known, decorations firmly place tulips in the old world. Tulips pop up in Southern Europe, the Caucuses, Iran, and Anatolia. Wild tulips appear in figures seen on Northern Mediterranean shores, in Japan and Central Asia.
Turks were the first to note tulips in Anatolia. As a decorative plant, the Seljuks valued tulips alongside roses, camations and daffodils. The first instance of a tulip in decoration in Anatolia dates back to the 12th century. Mevlana was the poet to refer to tulips in his poetry: "Come tulip come and take color from my cheek" the famous philosopher wrote. More information here.