After receiving his art history degree at the University of Amsterdam, Six interned for Old Master dealer Bob Haboldt in Paris and then at the Amsterdam Historical Museum before joining Sotheby’s London five years ago. When he was sent to work in the somewhat sleepy Amsterdam bureau in May 2006, his boss encouraged him to “put it on the map.”
He did just that. Last spring he conducted a high-profile sale of what is thought to be the first known painting by Rembrandt’s contemporary Jan Lievens. The canvas, titled The Card Players, was signed J.L., but for at least a century its Belgian owners had mistakenly attributed it to Gerrit van Honthorst. Six helped establish that the painting was in fact a Lievens, painted circa 1624 when the artist was 17 years old and sharing a studio with Rembrandt. He sold it at auction for $2.41 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction in Holland.
Soon after, he was promoted to head of the department, and in December the Amsterdam office will be selling another major Sotheby’s score: the personal collection of Robert Noortman, who was the world’s leading Rembrandt dealer and died in January. (Sotheby’s bought Noortman’s Maastricht gallery in 2006.)
Since he’s about half the age of most Old Master collectors, Six is often working with clients who have been in the game a lot longer, and he insists he’s determined not to just fall back on his pedigree. “I want to prove myself not only as the son of that family,” he says, “but also as a person who knows about pictures.”
As is the tradition, Six will someday have his own portrait painted. Though his business is Old Masters, Six seeks out emerging artists for his personal collection, and the artist he would like to sit for is the contemporary master Lucian Freud. “I don’t know if he’d do it, and I can’t pay $5 million,” he says. “But I might write him a little letter, saying, ‘Rembrandt painted my ancestor; would you paint me?’”