About the painting, Elsje, an orphan girl, from 1887 wrote the reviewer of the Algemeen Handelsblad:
But how, however, did Mr. Van Looy, after his excellent studies and the great expectations that people had of him, come up with an eccentricity... Elsje, that is the name of this aberration, is sitting against a tree. Everything is in shadow, except for a light spot on the forehead of the idiot and a sort of halo above it. He can be forgiven much, because he has also done some good here, but Mr. Van Looy can only be fully forgiven for such a blunder if he will quickly make an excellent work of art to make us forget this mistake
The public also viewed Elsje with mixed feelings, as Van Looy himself observed:
"It is a special head, a child with a long face, as many girls of twelve have. You know, I see that child, I paint it with all the good and evil qualities of my stubborn nature, and voila: people laugh. No but there those who said they had nightmares and troubled dreams [from it]; others say it was an eccentricity. All kinds of nice things, which I amazed me and also I got a bit angry ...
[Google translation of text at http://jacobusvanlooy.nl.server43.firstfind.nl/jacobusvanlooy.nl/?page_id=152]