The novella, A Dog of Flanders was written by Ouida (pseudonym of English author Marie Louise de la Ramée) in 1872. It centered around the lives of Nello, a young orphan boy aspiring to be a painter, and his dog Patrasche.
The story is not very famous in the region despite it being set in Antwerp, but was a big hit in Japan, Korea, and the Philippines. This popularity derived from an anime television series created during the 1970s that showcased the adventures of the boy and his dog.
The climactic scene of A Dog of Flanders follows a desperate Nello, who after being wrongly accused of causing a fire in his village, goes to the cathedral in Antwerp to see his idol Rubens’s “The Elevation of the Cross” and “The Descent of the Cross.” However, he was out of money and unable to see the artwork. On Christmas Eve, Nello and his dog stayed at the cathedral when they found the doors open. The next morning, the boy and his dog are discovered frozen to death under his favorite artist’s painting.
This tragic ending inspired more than a few fans to visit Antwerp, however, there was nothing dedicated to the story in the country as most were unaware of its international popularity.
During the 1980s, Antwerp finally introduced a small statue of a boy and his dog to Hoboken, a suburb of Antwerp where the novella is believed to be set. Toyota also donated a commemorative plaque that was placed in front of the Cathedral of Our Lady. The plaque was later replaced by a marble statue made by Batist Vermeulen, depicting Nello’s last moments with Patrasche, covered by a cobblestone blanket, forever together.