The story of the tulipiere starts with Tulipmania (1634-1637), when tulips were the new gold, costing a small fortune and bringing along with them high social status (Queen Mary II was a huge fan). It has been said (though there are some conflicting reports on this, but isn’t that the case with all good stories) that the potters and ceramicists of the day created the tulipieres so that the much coveted, outrageously expensive bulbs could be planted in the individual compartments of the vessel so as not to be disturbed or upstaged by any of the lesser flowers.
Others say that the tulipiere was not made for growing but for displaying the freshly cut tulips in an artful and practical way (as you may know, tulip stems continue to grow even after they are cut and placed in water and begin to get a bit unruly, in which case the tulipiere keeps them in place). Whatever the case may be, the Dutch, of course, made them first out of their delftware and these are the ones we are probably most familiar with.
Meanwhile, the tulip has come down, you might say (all of us non-royalty folks can get them now in the grocery store). And the story of the tulipiere seems to be having a second act. They are back in the spotlight, having their moment in the spheres of interior decorating, antique collecting, and floral design.
Antique tulipieres can be pricey and hard to get your hands on, but if you find one that you love, it might be worth the investment. Some reproductions and vintage tulipieres are more reasonably priced and these are a good place to start for new collectors or those who want to use them as casual vessels for flowers.