Chinard was born in Lyon and quickly spoilt his parents' plans of sending him into the church by showing a great talent for sculpture from an early age. He trained at the Ecole royale de dessin at Lyon, and had been commissioned to restore the facade of the Hotel de Ville when he was scarcely sixteen. He travelled to Rome in 1784 where he made many marble copies from the antique. He went to Lyon in 1787 but returned to Rome in 1791. He was imprisoned in the Castel S Angelo for anti-religious acts in 1792 and the painter David made an appeal for his liberty. Released after two months in gaol, Chinard returned to Lyon where he spent most of the rest of his life, visiting Italy again and Paris a number of times where he exhibited his work to great acclaim.