As recounted in the Golden Legend, Saint Anthony was the son of a wealthy Egyptian landowner. Upon the death of his parents, he relinquished all material possessions in order to lead the ascetic life of a hermit in the wilderness, and as such, is generally recognized as the founder of monasticism. While in the desert, Anthony was tormented by the Devil, who repeatedly tested his resolve by assailing him with hideous monsters and lustful demons.
Although of Flemish descent, Pieter Schoubroeck was one of the most prominent members of the Frankenthal School, a group of Protestant artists living in Frankenthal, Germany under the protection of Elector Palatine Frederick III. There, he may have studied with Gillis van Coninxloo III. In his predilection for colorful, detailed-filled compositions populated by numerous small figures, Schoubroeck was clearly inspired by the works of Jan Breughel the Elder, whose Temptation of Saint Anthony of circa 1595 may have been a direct source for the present painting(see K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere (1568-1625), Lingen, 2008-10, II, pp. 616-20, no. 293).