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    Sale 7440

    Important Russian Pictures

    28 November 2007, London, King Street

  • Lot 438

    Nikolai Konstantinovich Kalmakov (1873-1955)

    Léda et le Cygne

    Price Realised  


    Nikolai Konstantinovich Kalmakov (1873-1955)
    Léda et le Cygne
    signed with monogram and dated 1917 (lower right)
    pencil and pastel on paper laid down on cardboard
    19¾ x 25 5/8 in. (50.3 x 65 cm.)
    Executed in 1917

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    Nikolai Kalmakov is as fascinating and inscrutable a figure as his art; both are associated with the decadence, eroticism and spirituality of the fin de siécle. A Russian aristocrat by birth, Kalmakov was an eccentric figure whose intensity and mysticism both inspired and isolated his peers to the extent that he died, alone, and in extreme poverty at the hôpital de Lagny, near Chelles.

    Of Russian and Italian descent, Kalmakov studied at The Imperial School of Law in St Petersburg where he met Nikolai Evreinov, the prominent Russian playwright and theatre director, for whom Kalmakov later produced a sexually-charged stage design for a production of Oscar Wilde's Salome in 1908. Lacking formal artistic training, Kalmakov's oeuvre is clearly linked with a dark spirituality; indeed, many of his works display 'other-worldly' qualities and create an ethereal, or perhaps primordial vision imbued with complex symbolism.

    Executed prior to Kalmakov's emigration in the mid-1920s, the present lot is a sensual example of Kalmakov's fascination with goddesses and figures from classical mythology. In Kalmakov's depiction of Zeus' fabled seduction of Leda the curved neck of the intrusive swan is mirrored by Leda's voluptuous figure, emphasising their impending union.

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    Acquired from the artist in the 1930s, Paris.
    By descent in the family to the present owner.


    Exhibition catalogue, Kalmakoff, L'Ange de l'Abîme 1873-1955 et les peinture du Mir Iskousstva, Paris, Musée-galerie de la Seita, 1986, p. 52, no. 14.


    Paris, Musée-galerie de la Seita, Kalmakoff, L'Ange de l'Abîme 1873-1955 et les peintures du Mir iskousstva, 26 March - 17 May 1986, no. 14.