This view shows a stretch of the ramparts of Antwerp looking from the Kipdorpbastion towards the Rodepoort surmounted by the Rode Toren (Red Tower), one of the few remnants of the medieval city walls that were retained after the Spanish rebuilt the defences in 1542-1555. The windmill on the right stands on the Molenbolwerk, or Kruipholbastion, and that in the centre on the Molenberg. The Antwerp archives indicate that the lime trees in this drawing were planted along the rampart in early 1578, and that the windmill on the Molenberg was removed from the bastion in 1583, indicating that the drawing can be dated very precisely to the intervening years.
Peter Schatborn has suggested that an attribution to Jacob I Francaert (Antwerp before 1550-1601 Rome) could be considered. Attributions of drawings to Francaert are based primarily on a drawing of The Temple of Minerva Medica and other ruins on the Esquiline, Rome formerly in the collection of Thomas Ashby and now in the Vatican, which is inscribed 'Van Franckaert' in an apparently early hand (A.-C. Liedekerke et al., Fiamminghi a Roma, 1508 - 1608, Artistes des Pays-Bas et de la Principauté de Liège à Rome à la Renaissance, Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, and Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1995, no. 92. Other drawings by the same hand, also of Roman views, are in Berlin (Kunstbibliothek inv. no. 9668), the Louvre (inv. no. 19.885) and the Rijksmuseum (K.G. Boon, Netherlandish drawings of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, Amsterdam, 1978, no. 173).
The fine penwork and the characteristic manner of depicting foliage with brief dashes in the drawings attributed to Frankaert is certainly similar to the execution of the present drawing, but none shows the combination of fluent handling and striking composition and perspective found here. Franckaert was registered as a Master in the Antwerp Guild in 1571 and is recorded in Rome in 1585, where he lived until his death. No drawings from his Antwerp period are known, but the dating mapped out above would certainly fit with his career.
We are very grateful to Prof. Dr. Piet Lombaerde for his help in locating and dating this drawing, and to Peter Schatborn for suggesting the attribution.