Born near Metz in the province of Lorraine, Poërson studied with Simon Vouet, France's prime exponent of the Baroque style. A pupil of Vouet until 1638, he was an early member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, founded in 1648. Poërson enjoyed great success in the 1650s. In 1658 he became rector of the Academy, a post he held until his death in 1667.
Each year between 1630 and 1707, the Parisian goldsmiths' guild commissioned a large painting, called the Grand May, for Notre-Dame cathedral. Here, the story is the Apostle Paul's shipwreck on Malta on his way to trial in Rome. As the survivors built a fire to warm themselves, Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake but lived. The Maltese were convinced he was a man of God and converted to Christianity. This painting is a modello, or oil sketch, for Poerson's Grand May of 1653, now lost.