The Bridge and Castle of Sant' Angelo in Rome are in the background. The jousting contest has not been identified with any particular occasion.
Portraits of Vernet and his wife are said to be included in the picture, presumably the elegantly dressed couple on the right in the foreground. In 1745 Vernet had married Carlotta Cecilia Virginia Joachina (born 1728), daughter of Mark Parker, an Irish Catholic living in Rome.
Commissioned by the Marquis de Villette in 1749, and one of several pictures by Vernet which he owned. The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1750.