The Symbolist poet and novelist, Camille Mauclair wrote that 'the domain of fantasy is now wide open to artists' and this new freedom of imagination is certainly evident in Redon's unprecedented image. This bizarre image of a smiling spider was originally intended to be part of an album called 'Modern Pieces', along with Christ. However, Redon decided against the album format for these disparate images and instead released them individually. Many were sent as gifts. For example, Redon sent impressions of the Araignée and Christ to the writer Joris-Karl Huysmans in 1887.
A paler, earlier state of this print exists. For this final state, Redon extensively reworked the image with lithographic tusche, and darkened the upper half of the spider's face and body with pen-and-ink lines. He also used solid pen-and-ink lines to strengthen the spider's legs, giving greater weight and tangibility to this bizarre creature.