When Vincent took a trip to Brussels in 1878 with his father and the Rev Slade-Jones to look into studying to become a preacher, they lodged with the Geerling family. Otto Geerling was an architect who frequently did evangelical work, through which he had met Mr Van Gogh.
More than a year later, Vincent returned to Brussels on foot from the Belgian village of Cuesmes, and he called on the Geerling family. Vincent had been living among the miners of the Borinage region and severely neglecting himself. According to accounts, when he showed up at the Geerlings’ house, he looked so ill, unhealthy and unkempt that one of the daughters fainted when she opened the door. Mr Geerling, however, recognised Vincent, heartily welcomed him and offered him food. In thanks, Vincent drew some sketches and gave them to the daughters, but they were so disgusted by his appearance that they threw the gifts straight into the fire.