Neoclassical architect Pierre-Adrien Pâris grew up in the court of the prince-bishop of Basel, where his father was the official architect and topographer. In 1760 he moved to Paris to study under an architect. After three unsuccessful attempts at winning the Prix de Rome, he went to Rome in 1769 as tutor to his teacher's son and attended the Académie de France there. Traveling extensively throughout Italy, he drew the antiquities at Pompeii, Paestum, Herculaneum, and other sites.
Upon his return to France, Pâris's portfolios of architectural drawings brought him employment. Louis XVI named him dessinateur in 1778, charging him with designing the décor for court entertainments, theater, and funerals. Pâris's most original works were stage sets for the court and for the Paris Opéra. In 1780 he joined the prestigious Académie Royale. Later, as interim director of the Académie de France in Rome under Napoleon, Pâris supervised the excavations at the Colosseum. In 1817 he retired to catalogue his collection of contemporary paintings and antiquities.