The painting depicts a monster creature ripping itself to pieces. Dali said: "These Iberian people devouring each other in autumn express the pathos of civil war thought of a phenomenon of natural history."
When Dali learned that the Art Institute of Chicago had acquired this work, he sent a telegram with the following explanation:
"Am happy and honored by your acquisition. According to Nostradamus, the apparition of monsters is a presage of war. This canvas was painted in the mountains of Semmering a few months before the Anschluss and it has a prophetic character. The women-horses represent the maternal river-monsters, the flaming giraffe the male cosmic apocalyptic monster. The angel-cat is the divine heterosexual monster, the hour-glass the metaphysical monster. Gala and Dali together the sentimental monster. The little lonely blue dog is not a true monster."