Deshays enjoyed a brief, but brilliant, career; he was extolled by Diderot as "the first painter of the nation" (Salon of 1761). Born in Colleville, near Rouen, his formative years were spent in Normandy. He studied first with his father, a minor painter, subsequently receiving instruction in drawing from Collin de Vermont, religious painting from Jean Restout, and the rococo style from Fran~cois Boucher. He won the Prix de Rome in 1751 but spent the next three years in the studio of Carle Vanloo before taking up residence at the French Academy in Rome, then under the direction of Charles Natoire. Deshays returned to Paris in 1758, married the elder daughter of Boucher, and was made a full member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1759. The artist exhibited at only four official Salons, all to extraordinary acclaim. Deshays's rich imagination and powers of expression were inspired by the great history painters of the seventeenth century, Eustache Le Sueur, Charles Le Brun, Rubens, and the Carracci. The majority of his ceuvre is made up of religious and mythological compositions, conceived in the grand French decorative tradition.