Lita and the Black Tulip

On a cold December afternoon painter Lita Cabellut lured us to Lisse at the heart of the famous Dutch flower fields. The small but ever so cute museum The Black Tulip was exhibiting her portraits of 17th century Dutch men and women. The rich tulip merchants and their families in the huge portraits could have been dressed by Rembrandt. But they were definitely painted by Cabellut, revealing her mesmerizing touch. 


Lita Cabellut (1961)

Photo: Lluc Queralt

grew up in Barcelona, living as a street child until she was adopted at the age of 12. When her adoptive mother took her to the Prado Museum she instantly knew: ‘I want to be a painter’. She studied art at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and has lived in The Netherlands ever since.


In 2020 Museum The Black Tulip asked her to exhibit her Black Tulip Portraits. The small museum – dedicated to the history, culture and trade of Dutch tulips – is located in a former bulb shed in Lisse, the epicenter of Dutch tulips.

Lita Cabellut at the opening of The Black Tulip exhibition


Famous for her portraits – like the Coco Chanel portraits – Lita Cabellut’s passion for painting led her to use different techniques and styles, from Rembrandtesque and fresco to abstract.
Lita Cabellut was elected Artist of the Year 2020 and is a renown juror in the ‘Project Rembrandt’ television show.

A Chronicle of the Infinite, 2018. Photo: John Tromp

In 2020 Lita Cabbelut also conquered Houston TX with her exhibition ‘The Colors That Remain’ at gallery Art of the World. Their beautiful catalogue is a great opportunity to make the artist’s acquaintance:

About the Dutch and their Tulips

In 1593 Carolus Clusius, doctor and pioneering botanist, received the first tulip, given to him by a Flemish diplomat. He planted the tulips in the Hortus Botanicus in Leiden.

Growing and trading tulip bulbs soon became very popular with prices soaring, leading up to the so called tulip mania between 1634 and 1637. Special tulips with beautiful colors and structures could fetch more than a canal house in Amsterdam. As most financial bubbles, this one too collapsed. At the time traders and investors didn’t know that the coloring that made some tulips invaluably beautiful was the result of a virus, not of a carefully cultivated new species. It could not be repeated with certainty in next year’s bulb, rendering investments risky.

Tulip Fever (2017) a film about a nationwide tulip madness.


The Black Tulip

Photo: Jean Jones

French author Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870) wrote La Tulip Noire around 1850. The Black Tulip Museum in Lisse took it’s name from this book. The novel is set in the ‘disaster year’ 1672 when statesman Johan de Witt and his brother were publicly slaughtered in The Hague. The year also when France and England declared war on the low countries. At that time there is a competition: who is the first to grow a black tulip. Main character is bulb grower and contestant Cornelis van Baerle. He is thrown in jail by politically motivated competitors, will he be able to escape in time to win the contest?

An Elusive Black Flower

Often seen as typically Dutch, the Dutch know full well that their tulip originated in Turkey. Tulips have been known in North-Africa and Southern Europe as well as in the Middle East, Siberia and China for many centuries. Not the black tulip however. It’s not for lack of trying, but no man has been able to create a real black tulip. Very very deep purple or maroon tulips is as far as we got to this day. The Queen of the Night and the Black Parrot are as good as it gets for now.


The museum’s permanent exhibition includes all kinds of paraphernalia related to the tulip trade in The Netherlands, old paintings and drawings and preserved bulbs (see below, no it is not an artichoke, it’s a tulip embryo).


Museum de Zwarte Tulp

Lita Cabellut – Black Tulip until January 31 2021

Heereweg 219, Lisse,
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