John Young Mason was born in Greensville County, Virginia, on April 18, 1799. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1816 and was admitted to the bar in 1819. Mason was a Federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia and served in the State legislature from 1823 to 1831. He was Representative in Congress from Virginia from1831 to 1837, and a delegate to the conventions of 1830 and 1850-52 for revising the Virginia constitution. On March 14, 1844, President Tyler appointed him Secretary of the Navy. Mason was appointed Attorney General of the United States on March 6, 1845, by President Polk, and held that office until September 9, 1846. Thereafter he was reappointed Secretary of the Navy by Present Polk and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to France in October 1853 by President Pierce. He died in Paris on October 3, 1859.
Andrews was born in Steubenville, Ohio. He studied painting under Bonnat in Paris and at the Dusseldorf Academy in Germany. On his return to the United States he settled in the District of Columbia. He eventually became director of the Corcoran School of Art and held that position for twenty-five years. His portrait of Mason was copied from one by Thomas Sully. Several of his paintings hang in the White House, including those of Martha Washington, Dolly Madison and Thomas Jefferson.