The Coronation by Nicholas Kalmanoff
3 min

The Sensual Delirium of Russian Symbolist Nicholas Kalmakoff

3 min

Nicholas Kalmakoff (1873-1955) was a Russian modernist painter and designer whose visionary works gained popularity in the spicy atmosphere of Fin de Siecle's opium masquerade and just as quickly were forgotten after the fall of the Russian empire when the new epoch began. His art, which was discovered in the 1960s at a flea market, is a curious blend of Greek sensuality, Asian decorativeness, and modern symbolism of Gustave Moreau. Many well-known characters in Kalmakoff's paintings, such as Medusa or Narcissus, are stylized self-portraits of the painter.

 Nicholas Kalmakoff in his studio in Paris

Fig. 1. Nicholas Kalmakoff in his studio in Paris, 1928 (

 Chinese Man with a phallic signature of Kalmakoff in the lower right

Fig. 2. Chinese Man with a phallic signature of Kalmakoff in the lower right (

 Peacock Rideri  Nicholas KalmakoffFig. 3. Peacock Rider (

 hinese scene by Nicholas Kalmakov

Fig. 4. Chinese scene (

 Girl and the Buddha by nicholas kalmakoff

Fig. 5. Girl and the Buddha (

 Female and Buddha by Nichola Kalmakoff

Fig. 6. Female and Buddha (

 Les femmes de Nadjis by Nicholas Kalmakoff

Fig. 7. Les femmes de Nadjis, 1911 (

 Satan by Nicholas aKlmakov

Fig. 8. Satan, 1923 (

  Satan’s Wife by Kalmakoff

Fig. 9. Satan’s Wife (

 The Coronation by Nicholas Kalmanoff

Fig. 10. The Coronation (

An Awaited Guest

Nicholas Kalmakoff (or Nikolai Kalmakov transliterated) was born into a family of a Russian general and an Italian woman. Childhood years the artist spent on the Rivera. After relocating to Russia in 1890, he enrolled in the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg, which was considered quite prestigious. Graduated five years later, Kalmakoff returned to Italy, the artistic Mecca of all times. There, he studied anatomy and painting by himself, with Renaissance art as an inspiration. In 1900, Kalmakov resettled in Russia, dividing his time between two culture centers - Moscow and Petersburg - where various artistic groups emerged. He didn't join any particular group, remaining an independent loner, yet his exotic and esoteric eroticism well matched the decadent outlook of the modern intelligentsia; thus, he was an awaited guest at many exhibitions.

Death by Nicholas Kalmokov

Fig. 11. Death (

Predictions. Lying nude with two monkeys by Nicholas Kalmakoff

Fig. 12. Predictions. Lying nude with two monkeys (

Bold Provocativeness

The first solo exhibition of Kalmakoff's paintings in Petersburg in 1913 caused agitation among journalists who praised or damned what they saw, as the works of this artist were always distinguished by their bold provocativeness. For instance, the artist depicted himself as Louis XIV and, what could raise more controversy, John the Baptist.

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Click HERE for the sensual references to Gustav Klimt by the Israeli artist Irina Karkabi

Sources: J. Balybina. The art of Nikolai Kalmakov in the context of symbolist movement of Petersburg. 2007;;;