Banquet of Kings

Artist: Pavel Filonov
Date: 1913
Media: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 175 x 215 cm
Ownership: Russian Museum, St Petersburg
Property of the artist’s sister, Yevdokia Glebova, Leningrad (until 1977)
Banquet of Kings


Banquet of Kings was painted one year before the outbreak of the First World War and many contemporaries regarded it as a form of prophecy or a frightening vision of the Apocalypse. Submerged in twilight, the depicted scene is lit up solely by splashes of blood-red reflections, while the images are deliberately grotesque.

This painting is often associated with the biblical story of the Feast of Herod, which led to the Beheading of John the Baptist. The Futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov described Banquet of Kings as “a feast of corpses, a feast of revenge”, while one of Pavel Filonov’s students called it “a demonic reworking of the Last Supper”.

The range of traditions that Pavel Filonov was capable of reinterpreting was far too broad for his painting technique to be easily identified with any other modern trend in art. As in the master’s other works, the concept was more important than the artistic device, which helps to explain the unpredictability of his personal style.

Banquet of Kings was painted when Pavel Filonov was thirty years old and always hung above his bed. After the artist died of starvation on 3 December 1941, during the Siege of Leningrad, there was a shortage of wooden boards for coffins. For nine days, the dead body of Pavel Filonov lay in his room covered by this painting.

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