Girodet joined Jacques-Louis David's studio in 1784 and tried twice for the Prix de Rome before finally winning the prize in 1789 with Joseph Recognized by His Brothers. In 1790 he left for Rome, where he painted the highly successful The Sleeping Endymion, 1791, shown both in Rome and at the Paris Salon of 1793. During the revolution he spent time in Naples, Venice, and Genoa; he returned to Paris in 1795. Since 1791 he had worked for the publisher Didot, illustrating works by Anacreon, Virgil, and Jean Racine. His Portrait of Mademoiselle Lange as Danaë caused a sensation at the 1799 Salon.
In 1801 Girodet was commissioned by Bonaparte to paint Ossian Receiving the Shades of the French Heroes for the Château de Malmaison. Between 1806 and 1810 Girodet painted Scene from a Deluge, The Funeral of Atala, The Surrender of Vienna, and The Revolt of Cairo. In the decennial competition of 1810 his Deluge triumphed over David's Sabine Women. By this time Girodet had painted most of his major works, and for the most part he spent the later years of his career making drawings, many of which are illustrations. Girodet, who was also a prolific writer and poet, became a member of the Académie in 1815. (Lisa Dickinson Michaux, Visions of Antiquity: Neoclassical Figure Drawings, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1993: p. 214)