In the centre of the composition Saint Nicholas is portrayed in bust, blessing and holding a closed book studded with stones and pearls. Two miniatures on the golden ground, Christ and the Virgin, offer the symbols of archbishopric: the gospel book and the epitrachelion. These small figures are remarkably executed without modelling but painted free-hand, revealing an exceptionally competent and experienced painter possibly trained in Italian sketching.
Twelve scenes from the Saint's life and miracles are arranged around the central depiction, bearing elliptical descriptions:
The birth of the saint: Η ΓΕΝΝΗΣΙΣ
The saint goes to school: ΕΝ ΤΟ ΣΚΟΛΙΟ
The saint rescues the three poor maiden from prostitution: ΦΕΡΟΝ ΤΟ ΧΡΥΣΙΟΝ
He is ordained priest: ΙΕΡΕΥΣ
He is ordained diacon: [ΔΙ]ΑΚΟΝΟΣ
He is ordained bishop: ΕΠΙ]ΣΚΟ[ΠΟΣ
He appears in the dream of Constantine
He persecutes the devil by cutting the tree: διόκ(ει) τὸν δαίμοναν
He heals the demoniac
He saves three innocents from the executioner
The three generals in prison: ἡ τρῖς ἄνδρες ἒν τῆ φρουρᾶ
The scenes do not follow the chronological sequence of events, which is usual in earlier, contemporary and later icons as well. The use of few figures in front of simple, indicative buildings was designated by the limited space and follows the iconographic tradition commonly used from the 11th century onwards. There are important realistic details in the scene of the school and of the ship's rescue: the child's dress, the teacher's costume and hat and the type of the ship reveal modes of contemporary life.
The whole icon is very carefully executed, with the miniature scenes simplified in a way that gives a painterly feeling to the work. The use of colours here is noteworthy, remarkably harmonious, based on the unity of tones of green-chestnut brown-purple-gray. All these features suggest a safe attribution to the Cretan art of the 15th century.