This is the first of the jungle scenes on which Rousseau's fame chiefly depends. This painting was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1891 with the title 'Surpris!'. It was later described by the artist as representing a tiger hunting explorers.
Rousseau claimed that he had gained knowledge of the jungle while serving as a regimental bandsman in Mexico in the 1860s, but this seems to be a fiction and his paintings were probably inspired by visits to the botanical gardens in Paris and by prints. The figure of the tiger may have been based on a print after a pastel by Delacroix.