Augustin Pajou, who later won prestige and celebrity under Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, grew up in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, then one of the poorer sections of Paris. His father, a sculptor, was his first teacher, but Pajou showed such promise that he soon entered the studio of sculptor Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne. Four years later, at the unprecedented age of eighteen, he won first prize in sculpture at the Académie Royale in Paris. As winner of the prestigious Prix de Rome, he was financially supported by the king during his course of studies at the Académie de France in Rome.
During the 1760s, Pajou worked on numerous official commissions including the decoration of the Salle de l'Opéra at Versailles, the Palais-Royal, and the Palais de Justice. During the French Revolution, Pajou was appointed to a commission charged with the conservation of French monuments. After spending a few years in Montpellier avoiding the bloodbaths in Paris, he returned to the capital but had become too ill to work. Eventually he was evicted from his studio in the Louvre in 1806, and he died three years later.