Leontiev grew up in a religious household in the era of serfdom. A serf artist (large households had serf musicians and serf actors as well) painted him as a baby, attaching wings to him and making him look like a cherub. Years later, Leontiev discovered that the household serfs were using this portrait of himself as a holy icon to ask for intercession. Amusing, no doubt; but who among us can live entirely without illusions?
Dalrymple’s July 6th column in the BMJ offers a profile of Russian doctor (and “novelist, dramatist, literary critic, belletrist, philosopher, and theologian”) Konstantin Leontiev (1831-91):