Piat's father, Antoine, was a glass cutter. Piat worked in his father's factory until the age of 17, when he completed his technical schooling in drawing. He went on to improve his artistic education at the Antwerp Academy under the direction of Martin Joseph Geeraerts, an expert in grisaille and historic paintings..
He worked for a time in Brussels under the rule of the Habsburgs. He then joined the Saint Luc Academy in Paris, and in 1774 made nine paintings including the grisaille bas-relief La Mort de Germanicus (Germanicus death).
Sauvage was accepted into the Acadèmie royal de Paris after he produced a well-known painting of a round table with an embroidered cloth on which stand a statue of a child, a helmet, books, a violin, and other items. This canvas is at the Palace of Fontainebleau which also has other dessus-de-porte decorative works by this artist.
As his fame grew, he was chosen as the official painter of the Prince de Condé, and then by Louis XVI and the Royal Family. During this period, he painted Marie-Antoinette and produced paintings for the chapel of Saint-Cloud among other works.
His appointment as Royal artist did not keep him from joining the popular side of the French Revolution. His painting surprisingly did not slow down during this period of political upheaval.
In 1808 he returned to Tournai to became the director of the Academy of Drawing. Until 1817, he succeeded in this role while famous artists such as Antoine Payen studied there. He also painted the Sept Sacrements, or Seven Sacraments, in the choir of the Tournai cathedral in order to replace the superb tapestries stolen by the Jacobins during the revolution.
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