Nikolai Milioti (1874-1962)
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Nikolai Milioti (1874-1962)

Allegorical Crucifixion

Nikolai Milioti (1874-1962)
Allegorical Crucifixion
signed with artist’s monogram (lower right)
oil on board
12 7/8 x 11 ¼ in. (32.8 x 28.4 cm.)
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 15 June 1995, lot 61.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Exhibition catalogue, A Time to Gather… Russian Art From Foreign Private Collections, Italy, 2007, illustrated p. 145, no. 97.
St Petersburg, State Russian Museum; and Moscow, Tsaritsyno Museum, A Time to Gather... Russian Art From Foreign Private Collections, February-July 2008, no. 97.
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Lot Essay

Allegorical Crucifixion is central to our understanding of Russian symbolism. Milioti’s interpretation of the subject of the crucifixion of Christ has resulted in a highly individual composition, which simultaneously echoes the poeticism of works by artists in the ‘Golubaia Rose [Blue Rose]’ group, the symbolist artist association in Moscow active between 1906 and 1908. This group, in particular, looked towards the religious sources of spiritual reality, which very were often ignored throughout the course of Soviet art history. Furthermore, they considered the human soul to be the most important aspect of life, worthy of acting as independent subjects of a composition, represented through allegory.
Milioti’s painting brings together two central moments in the history of Christianity – the redemptive sacrifice of the crucifixion and the birth of Christ, the latter of which is symbolised by the presence of the three Magi. Milioti successfully imbues his composition with a sense of religious tenderness, temporal fantasy and fairy-tale, whilst at the same time exploring the poetic principles of constructing an art work in which the emotional state of the soul plays a dominant role. Significantly, Allegorical Crucifixion reflects the tendency towards independent thematic interpretation and visual dramatisation, both of which are commonly practiced by the Russian symbolist painters of the artist’s generation, including Vasily Denisov (1862-1921), and, to a certain extent, Pavel Kuznetsov (1878-1968). This deep exploration into religion is evident, too, in the iconography of the artist’s early symbolist works depicting surreal gardens of paradise.
It is interesting to note that, although the semantic (for example a study for Lamentation, 1907) and pictorial features are characteristic of the mid-1900s, Allegorical Crucifixion anticipates a subject matter that Milioti increasingly turned towards in the 1910s which was ever more characterised by eschatology and tragedy. To these ends, the artist’s palette became simultaneously more muted and intense. The colour scheme in the present work is dominated by lilac-azure hues. The combination of this palette and his fluid brushstrokes is reminiscent of works of Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) and Victor Borisov-Musatov (1870-1905), and is entirely consonant with Milioti’s paintings of the 1900s.
We are grateful to Dr Olga Davydova, Leading Research Fellow at the Scientific Research Institute of Theory and History of Arts of the Russian Academy of Arts, Moscow, for providing this catalogue note.

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