Raden Sarief Bastaman Saleh (1811-1880) was born into one of the noblest regent families on the island of Java. At a young age he was taught by the Belgian artist A.J. Payen (1792-1853), who recognised his talent and ensured Saleh was able to travel to the Netherlands to study art. After he arrived in 1829 he received artistic training by the renowned Dutch Romantic painters Cornelis Kruseman (1797-1857) and Andreas Schelfhout (1787-1870) in The Hague.
Saleh would stay in Europe for over 20 years. During this time he remained at several European courts, where he painted many portraits. Soon he shifted his attention to painting large scenes with fights between men and lions and other animalistic scenes, which brought him much fame. He studied the animals in the circus in The Hague, from prints he collected and from Old Master paintings he saw in museums.
In 1851, Raden Saleh returned to Java, where he held the position of curator of the colonial collection of government art. He continued painting portraits and landscapes, and died in 1880 after he returned from a second trip to Europe.