David was born into the family of a wealthy Parisian merchant on August 30, 1748. When the boy was about 10 years old his father, Louis-Maurice, died after a pistol duel. David's two uncles, Francois Buron (1731-1818) and Jacques- Francois Desmaisons (c.1720-89) who were both architects and building contractors, took care of the boy's upbringing. First he was educated at a boarding school and the Coll�ge des Quatre Nations in Paris. When he decided on the career of an artist his uncles helped him to become a student of Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809), a professor at the Academy who had a reputation as a good teacher.
As many young painters, David used his close relatives as his models, thus he painted both his uncles, his aunt Marie-Josephe, and his cousin Marie-Francoise, who had supported his wish to become a painter.