In this panel Bosch shows us the last moments in the life of a miser, just before his eternal fate is decided. A little monster peeping out from under the bed–curtains tempts the miser with a bag of gold, while an angel kneeling at the right encourages him to acknowledge the crucifix in the window. Death, holding an arrow, enters at the left.
Oppositions of good and evil occur throughout the painting. A lantern containing the fire of Hell, carried by the demon atop the bed canopy, balances the cross which emits a single ray of divine light. The figure in the middle ground, perhaps representing the miser earlier in his life, is shown as hypocritical; with one hand he puts coins into the strongbox where they are collected by a rat–faced demon, and with the other he fingers a rosary, attempting to serve God and Mammon at the same time. A demon emerging from underneath the chest holds up a paper sealed with red wax — perhaps a letter of indulgence or a document that refers to the miser's mercenary activities.
This type of deathbed scene derives from an early printed book, the _Ars Moriendi_ or "Art of Dying," which enjoyed great popularity in the second half of the fifteenth century. The panel may have been the left wing of an altarpiece; the other panels — now missing — would have clarified the meaning of some aspects of the scene, such as the discarded and broken armor and weapons in the foreground.
More information on this painting can be found in the Gallery publication _Early Netherlandish Painting_, which is available as a free PDF <u>https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/research/publications/pdfs/early-netherlandish-painting.pdf</u>