Born in Zamosc, Poland, Mordecai Cohen began life in the New World as a peddler. Rising to shopkeeper, merchant, and planter, he became one of the wealthiest men in South Carolina. When French General Lafayette visited Charleston in 1825, the gold plate and silver used at the banquet in his honor were borrowed from Mordecai Cohen.
Theodore Sidney Moïse, son of Hyam Moïse and Cecilia Woolf and nephew of the poet Penina Moïse, was born in Charleston in 1808. His formal artistic training is unknown, but his work clearly favors the academic style of the Canters, with whom he may have studied. The city directory of 1829 lists Moïse as an accountant; in 1835 he is identified as a portrait painter, supplementing his income by cleaning and repairing old pictures and practicing calligraphy. Moïse worked as an itinerant artist, traveling through Georgia, Mississippi, and Kentucky before settling in New Orleans, where he painted his most famous portraits, including those of Henry Clay and Andrew Jackson.