Navez was a pupil of Joseph François in Brussels and later Jacques-Louis David in Paris, whom he followed into exile in Brussels in 1816. Navez became a bastion of the art establishment in Brussels as founder of the Neo-Classical group and later as director of the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. His importance as a teacher is undisputed and his pupils include Jean-François Portaels as well as Lopold Robert and Alfred Stevens.
While Navez held to the teachings of David throughout his career, his stay in Rome from 1817 to 1822 also had a strong influence on the young artist. In Italy, he was exposed to the works of the Italian masters at first hand and the style and vivid colors of Raphael are reflected in his work, as so clearly demonstrated in Christ Giving to the Poor. While in Rome, he also met Ingres whose work he also came to admire.
As famed for his portraits as much for his religious compositions, the contemporary write Camille Lemonier wrote of Navez that 'the bourgeoisie, the financiers and the aristocracy sought his beautiful portraits, so nobly styled and with such lifelike truthfulness' (quoted in P. and V. Berko, Dictionary of Belgian Painters from between 1750 and 1875, Brussels, 1981, p. 489).