This image of the Virgin was closely associated with the Imperial throne. The icon is in an original Byzantine frame of gilded silver with gold enamels, pearls and gemstones, the enamels have been re-arranged. The surface of the icon and the figure of Christ was badly damaged by the attachment of jewels and pearls to the icon by Venetian devotees of the icon followed by the robbery when they were ripped from the icon. The face of the Virgin is very well preserved and shows extreme delicacy and refinement in the the painter's technique. It was probably created in the late 10th century, specifically to follow the emperor and the army on campaign. Perhaps it was made for Basil II, who spent most of his reign in the field, fighting the empire's many enemies. This icon was greatly esteemed by John II and his family.
The icon was taken by bloodied Crusader soldiers in 1204 in hand-to-hand combat with the defenders of the city at the Pantepotes Monastery which was and the last stand of the Byzantines. In the end the defense of the city had been taken on by a ragtag army composed of common people led by a few young aristocrats that had hastily been organized at Hagia Sophia. Refusing to fight without payment in gold, the Varangian Guard stepped aside and let the Latin troops ravage the city at will. The icon was taken as war booty by the Venetians and sent to Venice as a trophy. It was a symbol that God had now transferred His blessing from Constantinople to Venice by force of arms.
The crusaders had been blessed by the Catholic church and allowed to rob and rape at will because the Byzantines were heretics and not Christians, Murdering them was not a sin and would be blessed by Christ Himself. Killing them was required. The looting of the churches was also justified as restoring their treasures to the true church. Catholic bishops, priests and monks followed the Latin soldiers as they looted Constantinople, making deals for relics and having the soldiers do their dirty work of despoiling sanctuaries.
The Nicopeia was meant to be seen from a great distance and in low light. Here's a close-up view of it. I am nor sure why the beautiful halos were left off in the restoration. The icon would be much more attractive - and look less battered - with them. The outline of the Virgin has been greatly altered by later regilding. Now the head is smaller and the shoulders are too rounded.Above is the icon before its restoration showing the gems and pearls that were stolen in the robbery.