Another version of this composition, together with a preparatory study in black chalk and pen and brown ink, is in the Goethe Collection at Weimar (M. Oppel, op. cit., 1991, nos. 37-38).
Goethe's retalling of the fable of Reynard the Fox was published in 1793. The heavily satirical tale, which chronicles the adventures of the wily and unscrupulous fox as he confronts, and defies, the brutality and greed of the system. At the opening of the story Reynard is justifiably charged with a number of crimes by Braun the Bear, Isegrim the Wolf and Tybalt the Cat, all of whom, it becomes apparent, bear him a grudge. In a sequence of adventures, Reynard viciously exploits the weakness and venality of his fellow creatures and eventually comes out victorious. Goethe's verse setting was written in part as in response to the chaos surrounding the collapse of the French monarchy and the waves of revolutionary feeling that were sweeping Europe in the period.