A rare tour of an aristocrat's private home reveals valuable 17th-century paintings from artists like Rembrandt.
The city of Amsterdam is not wanting for art museums or valuable collections. Sure, you can visit renowned sites like Rembrandt’s House, Our Lord in the Attic, or the Rijksmuseum. But the Six Collection has something these other popular spots lack: Its rare paintings are held within a house with real people still living in it.
During the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century, collecting art became a fashionable activity. Famous artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Steen flourished during this era, and their masterpieces were hot commodities.
It was during this time that Jan Six, a member of a particularly wealthy Amsterdam family, began amassing a collection of valuable work still coveted to this day. His stock of paintings, drawings, and other artistic artifacts was passed down throughout the generations, eventually growing to become the Six Collection as it appears today.
To get an idea of the magnitude of the family’s wealth and influence, you have to keep in mind that some of the paintings are portraits of the Six family done by Rembrandt himself. But apparently, the family wasn’t sitting atop an unlimited fortune. Due to the increasing costs of maintaining their enormous collection, the Six family eventually had to ask for financial help from the Dutch government. In exchange for the subsidy they were granted, the family was asked to open their lavish home to visitors who wanted to see the artwork.
Visiting the collection is a bit of a strange experience. As it’s still held within a private home, it’s possible to bump into a resident—typically a descendant of Jan Six himself—in the middle of their breakfast or just after they’ve woken up. Entering the house to view the artwork offers a fascinating glimpse of how the Netherlands’ wealthy, aristocratic families live. Snagging a reservation to visit is a rare treat, making this collection one of the city’s best-guarded treasures.
Update: Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Six Collection is not accepting appointment requests until 2022.
Know Before You Go
Remember to book several months in advance. It is only possible to visit the house during weekdays in the morning. Even if you can't snag a spot, you can try to see some of the most famous pieces during the months they're lent to the Rijksmuseum.
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