Redon's drawing illustrates the poet Gérard de Nerval's translation of Goethe's text, in which Mephistopheles first appears to Faust and Wagner, his research assistant, on Easter morning in the form of a dog. Faust is worried by the presence of the black dog following them through the countryside, but Wagner responds 'Tu vois ! ce n'est là qu'un chien, et non un fantôme. Il grogne et semble dans l'incertitude; il se met sur le ventre, agite sa queue, toutes manières de chien'. But the dog continued to follow them home where, under Faust's spell, he first changes into a monster and then reveals that he is in fact the Devil.
Redon executed a lithograph illustrating another episode of the story of Faust in 1894: Hantise depicting Marguerite walking with Mephistopheles (Mellerio 128).