Flora, the Goddess of Flowers, is depicted in the painting Flora’s Wagon of Fools by Hendrik Gerritsz Pot (1640). Tulip traders referred to the tulip-trading phenomena as “windhandel” (wind trade), so named for the mania associated with the coveted tulip bulb because the bulbs never actually changed “hands” ~ they merely changed “ownership.”
Flora’s tulips are of the striped variety, the most coveted tulips of the day. The term “Tulip-break” was coined at this time when solid-colored tulips “broke with stripes,” in that the petals had highly unusual flame and feather patterns. (In actuality, the bulbs were infested with a virus transmitted by aphids which caused the striping.)
The painting depicts Flora on the throne of a wind-powered wagon with a tulip-flag mounted on the carriage behind her. The monks riding in the wagon have tulips sprouting from their caps, like the horns of a devil, while the merchants and aristocrats clamor to make themselves a part of the tulip trade, which was nothing short of a medieval “get-rich-quick” scheme. The wind-powered wagon is driven into the sea, with the speculators following blindly to their demise. Defective tulip bulbs containing a virus, almost caused the collapse of Holland’s economy in the 1630’s.
“Toxic assets” have come and gone throughout history, because the lust for wealth at any cost prevails in human nature.