Jacob Smits produced a number of pietas around the turn of the century. They bear witness of his Christian beliefs and of his deep sadness at the death of his wife Malvina, in 1899. These religious works of art were inspired by the painters of the late Middle Ages both in their iconography as well as in their stylistic effects. The subject of the dead body of Christ flanked by his grieving mother and Maria Magdalen is frequently evoked in the art of the Flemish Primitives. By using a golden background, Smits creates a feeling of sacredness and reinforces the mystical atmosphere of silence and piety. The use of watercolours and gouache imbues the scene with feeling.