The basic composition is known in five versions: the present work; that in a private collection (recorded in the files of the RKD, no. 59982); that sold in these Rooms, 9 December 1988, lot 59, as Follower of Jan Mandijn (formerly attributed in 1962 by Dr. Walther Bernt to Gillis Mostaert); that sold in these Rooms, 23 July 1982, lot 35, as Attributed to Jan Mandyn; and another sold in these Rooms, 5 February 1988, lot 135, as Follower of Hieronymus Bosch. Judging from photographs, the first two paintings would appear to be of noticeably higher quality than the latter three.
There are differences between all five pictures. The most important, however, are all between the present work and all four others: this is the only example to include a sunlit depiction of Purgatory (or The Last Judgement?) in the background, to omit the scenes of a soul being forced to sign a document in the lower right (beneath the monstrous head) and of tortured souls by an infernal lake in the foreground. Given the singular nature of the present work, it would seem reasonable to hypothesize that the latter three works are contemporary copies of the second picture, whilst the present example is by a separate artist.
On that basis, it is particularly interesting to note the inclusion in this picture alone of the owl in the tree, upper right. Although the depiction of an owl has often been cited as the equivalent of a signature for Herri met de Bles, and was cited as such by Van Mander, it has long been recognised that this cannot always be relied upon. Instead, as suggested by Friedländer, it should be used by way of confirmation rather than original proof (Early Netherlandish Painting, XIII, Leiden and Brussels, 1975, p. 24). That the present work differs from all other versions, that stylistically the unique background landscape is so close to Herri met de Bles, and that it is furthermore the only version to include the owl indicates that the symbol's inclusion here can be taken as such a confirmation.