Nello and Patrasche statue

Nello and Patrasche statue, Hoboken, public art

Public Art: Nello and Patrasche statue

Also Known As: Dog of Flanders sculpture

Sculptor: © Yvonne Bastiaens

Description: The bronze sculpture features Nello and Patrasche, the two main characters from the 1872 novel "A Dog of Flanders" by English author Marie Louise de la Ramée. The statue depicts a downcast Nello in clogs, patting the head of his loyal companion Patrasche.

Date Unveiled: The Nello and Patrasche statue was unveiled in 1985 by the then Japanese ambassador Shizuhiko Yamamoto and the then mayor of Antwerp, Bob Cools.

Location: The Dog of Flanders sculpture can be found just off Kioskplaats (Kiosk Square), outside the information centre at the beginning of Kapelstraat (Chapel Street), the town's main shopping street, Hoboken,  Belgium.

Nello and Patrasche sculpture, Hoboken, public artBackground: For those of you unfamiliar with the story of A Dog of Flanders, here is a brief summary. The story is set in a small village near Antwerp and revolves around a young and talented orphaned boy named Nello, who has been taken in by his poor grandfather.

One day Nello stumbles across a stray dog who has been badly beaten by his owner and decides to take him home to care for it. The dog, which Nello names Patrasche, soon recovers and they become inseparable.

To assist his grandfather, Nello and Patrasche both help pull the milk cart into town each morning. It's during these trips into the village that Nello falls in love with Aloise, the daughter of a wealthy man who disapproves of his daughter hanging around a poor, illiterate peasant boy. Whenever Nello has a spare moment he sneaks into the village chapel to admire the painting by the great master Rubens that hangs on the wall. This inspires Nello to draw.

One day the previous owner of Patrasche sees the two and tries to reclaim the dog. The grandfather uses part of the rent money to pay the man for the dog, leaving them in financial trouble. In response Nello decides to enter a painting competition in Antwerp in the hope of winning first prize which is 300 gold Francs and a two year scholarship to an art school. Unfortunately, Nello has no money for colorful paints.

Meanwhile his grandfather's health deteriorates, leaving Nello to tend the farm and deliver the milk by himself. Aloise is temporarily forbidden from seeing Nello but she convinces her father to eventually lift the ban. Nello's grandfather dies and then, in an unfortunate twist of fate, Nello is accused of setting fire to the town windmill . Ostracised by the villagers and unable to afford the rent, Nello's only chance of survival is to win the art competition in Antwerp. With only charcoal to draw , he works tirelessly on his picture and when completed he enters it, believing he has a good chance of winning. 

Having been forced to move out of the cottage by the landlord, Nello and Patrasche wander aimlessly throughout the country. Hungry and cold they eventually find their way to Antwerp to find out the results of the contest. Nello is devastated to learn he hasn't won. Nello and his dog head to the Antwerp Cathedral to see Rubens' The Elevation of the Cross, but he's turned away because he has no money to enter. On Christmas eve, as the snow starts to fall, the cold and starving Nello and Patrasche return to Antwerp Cathedral and discover one of the doors slightly ajar. The two are found frozen to death the following morning at the foot of Rubens' masterpiece. The people of village when they heard of their deaths, were so ashamed the dug a grave and buried them together. No happy ending here!

Ironically even today you still have to pay to see Rubens' The Elevation of the Cross at the Cathedral.

Hoboken Myth : During the 1980s Jan Corteel, an Antwerp tourist office employee, noticed many tourists (especially from Japan) were inquiring about the story of Nello and Patrasche. Fascinated by their keen interest he decided to research A Dog of Flanders and try to pinpoint in which village the book was set. After some intensive investigation through old records, he concluded that the story was set in the village of Hoboken, despite the fact the novel mentions the village was near a canal between Mechelen and Leuven. Thanks to Corteel, Hoboken is now a popular tourist destination for Nello and Patrasche fans, whether it was the real location of the book or not.


The story of Nello and Patrasche is widely read in Japan, and has been adapted into several films and anime.





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