The tradition of painting night scenes goes back to the late fifteenth century in Netherlandish painting. Among the early proponents are Hieronymus Bosch, who became famous for his scenes of hell that are inhabited by bizarre creatures and characterised by blazing fires. Jan Brueghel relied on this image type when in 1597 he created a depiction of limbo with the figure painter Hans Rottenhammer (The Hague, Mauritshuis). The version in Aschaffenburg is a copy that is attributed to the workshop. The subject is related in the ‘Golden Legend’, a medieval description of the lives of the saints and their legends. According to the story, the resurrected Christ visited limbo to save all those who had died without having had a Christian baptism.
The picture is painted on a copper plate that had previously been used for printing. On the reverse is a map of the French coast of the Mediterranean, which had been used to make prints that were published in an atlas.