Mayer initially studied under Joseph-Benoît Suvée and Jean-Batiste Greuze, before joining the studio of Jacques Louis David in 1801 and then that of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon in 1802 with whom she collaborated on a nearly equal basis. After Prud’hon's wife was committed to an asylum (after claiming that Prud’hon was having an affair with the Empress Josephine while painting her portrait), Mayer helped raise his children, and lived close to him in the Sorbonne in an apartment in the same building given to her by Napoleon (who had also bought a couple of her pictures). She exhibited at the Paris salons from 1791 and received great success after the exhibition of her picture of ‘Le Flambeau de Vénus’ (now in the Wallace Collection, London) in 1808, where she was listed as a pupil of Pierre-Paul Prud'hon. She was Prud'hon’s assistant and collaborator and most of her best works have been attributed to her master in the past. Mayer killed herself when Prud’hon refused to marry her after the death of his wife.