Empress Maria Alexandrovna Merit Medal in Silver for
Outstanding Achievements to a Graduate of a High School for
Girls ("Zhenskaya Gimnasia"), 1870-1880.
In silver, 37.8 mm; weighs 38.5 grams including the pint
attachment. Features bas-relief portrait of Empress Maria
Alexandrovna (wife of Alexander II). Under the portrait is
the name of the engraver "P. Brusnitsyn" (there is another,
somewhat less rare version of this medal with Brusnitsin's
initials to the undercut of the shoulder). The reverse has
inscription "To the Most Deserving Graduates of Women's
Gimnasias [High Schools]" (Достойнѣйшимъ Изъ Окончившихъ
Курсъ в Женскихъ Гимназияхъ).
This is the first version of the merit medal for female
graduates (the male version had been established much
earlier, in 1835, and remained virtually unchanged until the
1917 revolution). The medal was awarded exclusively by the
the Maria Alexandrovna Agency - as opposed to the more
numerous public schools managed by the Ministry of
Education. After the death of Empress Maria Alexandrovna in
1880, the agency was taken over by Maria Feodorovna, wife of
Alexander III. Therefore, from 1881 forward the medals bore
the likeness of Maria Fyodorovna (sometimes referred to as
"Maria the Angry" by the students). The early, 1870-80
versions with Maria Alexandrovna's portrait are very rare.
The medal is in fine to very fine overall condition. A pin
attachment was added to the reverse - probably by the
original recipient - to wear the medal as a badge or brooch.
There are occasional minor dings to the obverse, but the
details of the portrait are nicely preserved. The reverse
has some scratches, mostly in the lower portion, but its
details are extremely well preserved and crisp. The rim of
the medal has small edge knocks and some illegible
inscriptions - possibly the name of the original owner.
/Mikhail Dyakov, "Medals of the Russian Empire, Part 5,
1855-1881", page 82, fig. 670.2/