Fox and Mitten, after 1920, Oil on Masonite, 19 7/8 x 23 7/8 ” (50.5 x 60.3cm), ALL#5002.     Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), British, Naturalized U.S. Citizen, 1931

Crossing a snowy field, a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) stops midstride, its attention arrested by an object otherwise foreign to a natural scene. The fox stares intently at a mitten (right hand) insulated with an orange material. Has the item been lost or dropped intentionally? Does human presence portend danger to the fox?

Despite cloud cover, the snow picks up autumn color from the forest. Inexplicably, the fox has a black tipped tail rather than the white tip typical for this species. Black tail tips can occur but Seton emphasized the white tail tip as an important identification diagnostic for this species. An unintentional error by the artist who was very familiar with fox coloration or is this an anomaly on a particular fox he personally observed? Or is there a different explanation? A seemingly straight-forward animal in nature scene has become a bit of a mystery for the fox and for us.

Credit Line: Academy for the Love of Learning, Santa Fe, New Mexico. All rights reserved. Reproduction permission.   

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