The favourite portrait artist of both Nicholas I (1796-1855) and Alexander II (1818-1881), Mikhail Zichy was born in 1827 in Zala, Hungary. He first travelled to Russia in 1847 on the invitation of Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (1807-1873) who engaged the artist to instruct her daughter, Ekaterina Mikhailovna (1827-1894) in painting and drawing. After completing a number of studies depicting the coronation of Alexander II, Zichy was duly awarded the title of Academician by the St Petersburg Academy in 1856; he was named Court Painter in 1859 and remained so until 1873. Zichy settled in Paris from 1874 until 1881. Free from the restrictions of Imperial patronage and portraiture, he became acquainted with Gustave Doré (1832-1883) who was introduced to him on his first visit to Paris in 1862 by Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), one of the most prominent Romantic French writers.