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Six, Jan, Jhr.

    Full Name: Six, Jan, Jhr.

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1857

    Date Died: 1926

    Place Born: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Place Died: Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

    Home Country/ies: Netherlands

    Subject Area(s): aesthetics


    Professor of general art history at the Amsterdam Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten (1890-1917); first professor extraordinarius (1896-1916) and first ordinarius professor of aesthetics and art history at Amsterdam University (1916-1926). Six was born to an old patrician family and was a descendant of the famous art collector and Amsterdam mayor Jan Six (1618-1700). His father, Jhr. Jan Pieter Six (1824-1899), was a numismatist. The younger Six attended the Gymnasium in Amsterdam and studied classics at Amsterdam University between 1875 and 1883. His curriculum included aesthetics and classical art history, taught by Allard Pierson. He also studied painting and sculpture at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. Six continued study in Bonn, Germany, specializing in classical archaeology. In 1885 he obtained his doctorate at Amsterdam University under Pierson with a dissertation on the history of the appearance of the Gorgon in mythology and art, De Gorgone. The following years he traveled to Greece and Italy and published several archaeological studies. In 1889 he obtained a teaching position as privaatdocent of classical art history at Amsterdam University. The following year he was additionally appointed professor of general art history at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, succeeding J. A. Alberdingk Thijm. Six held this position until 1917. Soon after his appointment, he married Hieronyma Maria Antonia Fortunata Bosch Reitz (1867-?). In 1896 Six became professor extraordinarius of aesthetics and art history at Amsterdam University, succeeding Pierson. In his inaugural lecture, De geschiedenis der kunst van Grieken en Romeinen en hare plaats onder de akademische wetenschappen, he defended the position of art history in academic disciplines. From 1900 he broadened the curriculum at Amsterdam University to include contemporary art, leading to the appointment of Willem Vogelsang as privaatdocent for modern art history. He regularly published articles on various topics, including a number of studies on Rembrandt. In 1906, the three hundredth anniversary of Rembrandt’s birthday, Amsterdam University, on Six’s initiative, awarded honorary doctorates to several Rembrandt scholars, including Jan Veth, Abraham Bredius, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot, Wilhelm Bode, and Émile Michel. In the same year, Six was elected member of the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen. In 1908, the Six family sold to the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum Johannes Vermeer’s De melkmeid (The Milkmaid, ca 1658-1660). Six wrote an article on Vermeer’s painting technique in hopes of preventing an overcleaning of the painting’s surface. When in 1917 Six obtained a full professorship at Amsterdam University, Elisabeth Neurdenburg became privaatdocent under him. In 1919 Six was elected Rector Magnificus of Amsterdam University. Throughout his career, Six also was active in the Dutch museum world. His work as a member of the Rijkscommissie voor het Museumwezen, established in 1919, was typical of his work with museums. In 1921 he donated his collection of Greek vases and pottery fragments to his Alma Mater; now part of the Allard Pierson Museum. The same year he also established the Six-foundation to maintain the Six family portrait collection housed in the family house in Amsterdam, a group including the famous portrait of Jan Six, painted by Rembrandt in 1654. In 1922 Amsterdam University appointed Willem van der Pluym, who had previously succeeded Six in 1918 at the Rijksacademie, as privaatdocent of the history of architecture. In 1924, Ferrand Whaley Hudig became privaatdocent of Italian art history. Six died two years later. He was succeeded by Hudig in 1928, who then obtained the position of extraordinarius professor of art history (excluding the classical period). Six was an advocate for learning by seeing, instead of learning from handbooks. His approach was associative and imaginative (Haspels, 1979). Six was among the first art professors to be given the official responsibilities of “art history.” Six was the first professor extraordinarius (1896-1916) of art history (Amsterdam). Willem Vogelsang was the first ordinarius professor of art history at Utrecht, while Wilhelm Martin was the first extraordinarius art history professor at Leiden, both serving the same years, 1907-1946.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] [Specimen literarium inaugurale] de Gorgone. Amsterdam: R. Kröber-Bakels, 1885; [complete bibliography:] Bibliographie der Geschriften van Jhr. Dr. Jan Six. Amsterdam: Koninklijk Oudheidkundig Genootschap, 1933, and Boissevain, U. Ph. “Lijst der Geschriften van Jhr. Dr. Jan Six.” Jaarboek der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen 1928-1929. Amsterdam, 1929, pp. 47-68; [inaugural lecture Amsterdam University:] De geschiedenis der kunst van Grieken en Romeinen en hare plaats onder de akademische wetenschappen. Haarlem: Enschedé, 1896; “De techniek van Vermeer in ‘Een meyd die melk uytgiet.'” Bulletin Nederlandschen Oudheidkundigen Bond, tweede serie 1 (1908): 1-5.


    Boissevain, U. Ph. “Levensbericht van Jhr. Dr. Jan Six.” Jaarboek der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen 1928-1929. Amsterdam, 1929, pp. 1-47; Van Hoorn, G. “Levensbericht van Prof. Jhr. Dr. J. Six 1857-1926.” Handelingen van de Maatschappij der Nederlandsche Letterkunde te Leiden en Levensberichten harer afgestorven Medeleden 1927-1928. Leiden, 1928, pp. 129-144; F. W. Hudig in Brugmans, H., et al. Gedenkboek van het Athenaeum en de Universiteit van Amsterdam 1632-1932. Amsterdam: stadsdrukkerij, 1932, pp. 676-677; Haspels, C. H. E. in Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland 1. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979; Hoogenboom, Annemieke. “De introductie van kunstgeschiedenis aan de Nederlandse universiteiten: de voorgeschiedenis van de leerstoel van Willem Vogelsang.” in Bevers, Ton, et al. De Kunstwereld. Produktie, distributie en receptie in de wereld van kunst en cultuur. Hilversum: Verloren, 1993, pp. 88-89; Du Mortier, Bianca. Aristocratic Attire. The Donation of the Six Family. Zwolle: Waanders, 2000, p. 5; Marcus-de Groot, Yvette. Kunsthistorische vrouwen van weleer. De eerste generatie in Nederland vóór 1921. Hilversum: Verloren, 2003, pp. 49-56.

    Contributors: Monique Daniels


    Monique Daniels. "Six, Jan, Jhr.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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