One forgets, planning a trip, that one is hostage to weather, one’s respiratory system, and the wanderlust of today’s modern Old Masters.
For example. When last in Amsterdam, we sped to the Mauritshuis in Den Haag specifically to view Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, only to discover the Girl had flitted to New York, sporting her earring at the Frick.
Other times, however, things click into place, and one is privy to the magic of living history. This year, we returned, and she was there — a marvel to behold.
Then, suddenly before me was Rembrandt’s The Anatomical Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, painted when the artist was only 25. (Tulp was born Claes Pieterzoon, but renamed himself after the bloom when “tulipmania” swept the Netherlands during the early 1600s.)
Immensely wealthy, Tulp’s line merged with that of Jan Six I, a visit to whose home was a trip highlight and revelation. The combination of Tulp and Six wealth formed the nucleus of the Six Collection, located since 1915 on the Amstel riverbank.
It happened that Rembrandt was also a friend of Jan Six I, and painted the spectacular portrait that hangs in the home where Baron J. Six (XI) van Hillegom, lives today.
Admission to this treasure is free, but one must first request a visit, then receive an invitation from the Baron indicating the date and time to appear. Little was discarded over the centuries. As one marvels at a huge 1652 image of a rider and whip, the docent produces the very whip the subject is holding.
I sign the guest book, and learn it is the latest of 20 that have been touched by “friends, guests, and visitors since 1652,” and will be added to the collection. With a frisson I was enveloped in the presence of the living Tulps and Sixes, ceaselessly energetic Rembrandt, not as images on a wall, but in the call of greetings at the door, the clink of glass and silver, and farewells in the night.
The intimation of these 300-year-old vibrant lives is worth the trip. Even being stricken with a cold and cough mid-trip had its upside: I lost 10 pounds in the bargain. Yes, I’ll go back as soon as possible.