A RUSSIAN IMPERIAL PRESENTATION ICON OF SAINT NICHOLAS FROM THE EMPRESS MARIA ALEXANDROVNA TO HER MAJESTY'S 2ND PSKOV LIFE-DRAGOONS REGIMENT, DATED 1875. Here Nicholas is depicted in his standard attire as Bishop, delivering a blessing and holding an open book of Gospels inscribed with a variation of the text from Luke 6:17 (The Sermon on the Plain) "At that time Jesus stood on the plain, and a multitude of his disciples..." The style of painting can be compared favorably to icons produced by the dynastic icon painting family Sofonov, originating from Palekh but with a well-established presence in Moscow and to which the Imperial Warrant was granted for their work. The borders overlaid with a heavy silver repousse and chased riza, hallmarked Moscow, circa 1875 and Cyrillic maker's mark ??, probably for the firm of Ivan Gubkin. The verso covered in velvet and displaying an engraved silver dedicatory plaque which reads "To Her Majesty's 2nd Pskov Life-Dragoons Regiment from the Most August Chief 6th December 1875." The most August Chief in 1875 would have been the Empress Maria Alexandrovna who was the ceremonial chief of the regiment at that time. 14 inches x 12.25 inches (35.5 x 31 cm).
Maria of Hesse and by the Rhine was born in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1824. She became empress under the title Maria Alexandrovna upon the elevation to the throne of her husband, Tsar Alexander II in 1855. It was a common practice to appoint the Empress as the Chief (honorary) of a military unit, particularly Life Guard Regiments whose job it was to guard and protect the Imperial family. After giving the Emperor eight children, Empress Maria Alexandrovna died in Saint Petersburg in 1880 at the age of 55.