Lurking in the shadows, grotesque monsters emerge to taunt Saint Anthony, attempting to impede his meditation. Grinning with satanic delight, the demons take human and raptor-like animal forms. Unperturbed, Saint Anthony continues to read his meditations. Divine light illuminates his figure, forming a bright halo around his head. He is identified by his three principle attributes: a tau cross (T), the pig behind him, and the crutch at his side. The tau, a symbol of immortality in ancient Egypt, was adopted by Alexandrian Christians and became known as the Egyptian cross.
Lelio Orsi depicted this struggle between good and evil vividly using strong chiaroscuro (starkly contrasting light and shadow), and by rendering the grotesque features of the demons in loose, painterly brushstrokes, emphasizing their lack of humanity.