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Theodore Sydney Moïse

MOÏSE, THEODORE SYDNEY (1808–1883), U.S. painter; grandson of Abraham *Moïse. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, he received instruction in painting from his aunt, Penina *Moïse, a part-time artist. Nothing is known about his further education. In 1835, Moïse opened a studio in Charleston, advertising his services as a portrait painter, animal painter, picture restorer, and ornamental draftsman. Moïse moved to New Orleans in 1842–43, where he gained a reputation as an accomplished portrait painter and maintained a studio from 1850 until his death. Members of his studio included Benjamin Franklin Reinhart, Paul Poincy, and the portrait and genre painter Trevor Thomas Fowler. During and after 1842, Moïse traveled with Fowler in the pre-Civil War and then Reconstruction South. Fowler sometimes collaborated with Moïse in the execution of portraits of members of wealthy Southerners. So closely did Moïse and Fowler work that art historians find it impossible in some instances to differentiate Moïse's work from that of Fowler's. Moïse's subjects often included wealthy landowners, their families, servants, horses, and dogs. The latter images might have been commissioned on the strength of Moïse's reputation as a portrait painter and as a master of making expressive likenesses of horses. Moïse's portraits demonstrate a Neoclassical style which shares characteristics of the work of the French 18th century artists Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and Jacques-Louis David, as well as the American 19th century painter Rembrandt Peale. John Freeland commissioned the artist to paint a portrait of the senator and orator Henry Clay the year of Moïse's arrival in New Orleans. Moïse's painting of General Jackson on horseback (1815, City Hall, New Orleans) took a $1,000 prize for its accurate likeness of the general. When the portrait was cleaned in 1844, the signature "Amans and Moïse" was revealed; historians speculate that Moïse painted the horse, while Amans depicted General Jackson. Other portraits by Moïse include Mordecai Cohen and Governor Herbert (State Library, New Orleans). The Court House of New Orleans contains many portraits of judges by Moïse, as well as Life on the Metairie, which he completed in collaboration with Victor Pierson. Depicting portraits of 44 distinguished citizens of New Orleans at the last meeting of the old Metairie Race Track, this painting won Grand State-Fair First Prize in 1868 for best historical painting. The New Orleans Court House also houses a massive painting by Moïse which depicts portraits of 64 members of the Volunteer Fire Brigade marching in the city's Canal Street. Moïse attained the rank of major in the Confederate Army. He participated in the defense of the lower Mississippi during the Civil War by helping to deploy floating fire rafts to repel the Federal fleet. Works by Moïse are owned by private collectors, as well as by the Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky, the Louisiana State Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the S.J. Schwartz Historical Collection in Maison Blanche, Louisiana, among other museums and public buildings.


H. Moïse, The Moise Family of South Carolina and Their Descendants (1961); C. Roth, (ed.), Jewish Art: An Illustrated History (rev. ed. by Bezalel Narkiss, 1971); P.B. Schmit (ed.), Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718–1918 (1987).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.