It depicts a desk on which is a drawing of a tessellated pattern of reptiles. The reptiles at one edge of the drawing come to life and crawl around the desk and over the objects on it to eventually re-enter the drawing at its opposite edge. The desk is littered with ordinary objects, as well as a metal dodecahedron that the reptiles climb over. Although only the size of small lizards, these reptiles appear to have tusks and the one standing on the dodecahedron blows smoke from its nostrils.
Like many of Escher's works, this image was intended to depict a paradoxical and slightly humorous concept with no real philosophical meaning. There were, however, many popular misconceptions about the image's meaning. Once a woman telephoned Escher and told him that she thought the image was a "striking illustration of reincarnation". The most common myth revolves around a small book on the desk with the letters JOB printed on it. Many people believed it to be the biblical Book of Job, when in fact it was a book of JOB brand cigarette papers.