Illustrations by Nicholas Kalmakoff
Born in Nervi on the Italian Riviera in 1873, Nicolai Kalmakoff was born into a privileged existence. His father was a Russian General; his mother of Italian descent. Unlike most Russian aristocrats, he was baptized a Roman Catholic rather than a Russian Orthodox (due, no doubt, to his Italian mother).
Kalmakoff’s German governess was fond of Grimm’s fairy tales, and these left a lasting impression on his childhood imagination. As Kalmakoff later recounted: “She made me live in an imaginary world taken from the Brothers Grimm with a sprinkling of E.T.A. Hoffmann. I devoured those tales with delight. Around the age of nine I would often wander into the furthermost room of our house, where I would carefully conceal myself. Then, alone in the darkness, I would call upon the devil to appear.”