In 1883, a few years before going to Antwerp, Vincent had called La promenade sur les remparts by the Flemish artist Hendrik (Henri) Leys (1815–1869) one of the loveliest paintings he knew. When he arrived in Antwerp, he almost immediately visited Leys’ mansion, where the work was on display.
Although Vincent looked forward to seeing the painting, it proved to be something of a disappointment. He had expected its composition to be different, and he disliked its colours. The room was poorly illuminated that day, and he tipped the bonne to light the chandelier so he could see better. In spite of his disappointment, he deemed the figures “superbly” rendered. Vincent perceived a timeless sentiment in Leys’ paintings.