The circuit of coming and going is symbolized by the serpent, which frames the picture and bites its own tail. The red background portrays sunset, or as the case may be, sunrise. The house and the tree, representatives for the element earth, have fallen into decay and are bare. The three tombstones show the headgear of the pope, the king and the farmer. At death there is no difference.
The skeleton’s hand comes from the left and holds a blue scythe, which seems to be a mixture between a sceptre and a sword. The leaf, which is growing out of it, shows that death, due to its quality allowing old things to fade away, makes new growth possible.
The water symbolizes the river Styx, which has to be crossed at death so as to reach the next world. The colour blue in the picture stands for disconnection and purification. Like its younger brother sleep, death also has a cleansing property, which is particularly emphasized by the whiteness of the skeleton’s hand and the blade of the scythe. What is interesting (I only realized later) is that the scythe’s blade itself gives the hint of a crescent moon.