The miniature is after a portrait of Tsar Nicholas I (reigned 1825-1855) by George Dawe which sold at Christie's, London, October 22, 1987, lot 626.
Sir John Kinneir Macdonald (1782-1830) was a world traveller and diplomatist who began his career as a cadet in the army at the age of 20. The military not only enabled Macdonald to advance through the ranks, but exotic posts and special missions allowed him to travel throughout Europe and Asia. He published accounts of his extensive travels in Gazetteer of Persia of 1813, Travels in Asia Minor 1813-14 and Narrative of Travels in Asia Minor, Armenia, and Kurdistan in 1813-14, with Remarks on the Marches of Alexander the Great and of the Ten Thousand Greeks.
His most important post came in 1824 when he was appointed envoy to Persia to protect British interests in Teheran. When he arrived he found the Persians engaged in hostilities with the Russians, and he supported them through several military operations until the Shah's chief minister deserted upon the advance of Russian troops. Macdonald then began to work in a private capacity as a mediator to bring an end to the hostilities. On March 11, 1828 a Peace treaty was signed at Turkmanchi which resulted in a great loss of territory for Persia but won Macdonald the respect of both the Russians and the Persians.
The above lot was evidently presented to Macdonald by Tsar Nicholas I in recognition of his successful efforts in arranging the peace treaty. Additionally, the Persians bestowed upon him the Order of the Sun and Lion, and Macdonald was created Knight Bachelor in 1829. Macdonald remained in Persia as British envoy until his death in 1830.