Nicolas Kalmakoff 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, Kalmakoff 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.
In 1928, Kalmakoff worked on the Chapel of the Resurrected, commissioned by Héliodore Fortin (1889-1934), author of ‘La Bible des Esprits Libres’ and full of esoteric vision. Two years later, he began a new series on the subject of Joan of Arc. Canonized in 1920 in recognition of the spiritual aid and courage she brought to the French during the World War I, Joan of Arc was recognised as the patron saint of France. Kalmakoff conceived of a chapel dedicated to this heroine and painted a large work (The Triumph of Joan of Arc, 1930, Private collection), which is illustrated in a book published in 1932 to raise funds to bring the project to fruition (E. Schneider, Sainte Jeanne d’Arc, sa vie, Paris). For reasons unknown, the project was abandoned. The present work clearly relates to the aforementioned composition, focusing only on Joan of Arc’s profile, the vibrant rays illuminating her face.