At the age of twelve Nikolai was sent off to Nezhyn School, a boarding school of higher education for boys, where the usually secretive and shy "Mysterious Karla", as he was called by his peers, became known for his sharp tongue and brilliant mimicry, proving himself an exceptionally gifted comedic stage actor. His smashing performances in the roles of old men and women particularly has the audience "spinning in the aisles".
Nikolai Gogol, one of the most mysterious authors in all of Russian literature, was born in Velykie Sorochentsi, Mirghorodskiy District of the Russian Empire to a family of landowning gentry. Named after Saint Nicholas The Wonderworker, Nikolai was baptized in the Church of the Transfiguration and spent his boyhood on an ancestral estate in the colorful and folklore rich Cossack Malorussian countryside. Young Gogol grew up an imaginative and artistic child, helping stage plays in his uncle's home theater, much like his father Vasiliy Gogol-Yanovskiy, an enthusiastic amateur dramaturge, actor and conductor.
Gogol excelled at drawing, acted as a stage designer, and contributed prose and poetry to the school magazine. Unlike most boys, deep down Nikolai knew that an unusual destiny awaited him, often referencing to signs, in which he firmly believed.
Upon concluding his studies in 1828, Nikolai, full of noble ideas, set out for a new life in Saint Petersburg. After a time of hardship, inability to secure a proper post, and finally spending time as a clerk in various departmental offices, Gogol became frustrated with his career. Fate had a different path for the young man to follow.
Nikolai felt that his most noble calling was to write. Sensing a growing interest in all things Malorussian, its folklore and country life, Gogol inspiringly wrote and published his first volume of short stories Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka in 1831. The vivid prose were instantaneously successful with readers and avant-garde literary circles alike. During this time Gogol was exceptionally prolific, writing with much spirit and zeal.
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka is shortly succeeded by a second installment entitled Mirgorod, and a collection of stories Arabesques. Nikolai introduced himself to the literary elite and became a close acquaintance of his hero, the great Russian poet Aleksander Pushkin, and Vasiliy Zhukovsky, a poet and foremost leading figure in Russian literature. In 1836, his comedy The Inspector General (Revizor) had its premiere on the Saint Petersburg and Moscow stages.
That same year Gogol commenced his European travels, visiting Germany, Switzerland, France, and eventually stopped his sights on Italy, where during the next 12 years he resided in his beloved Rome. In the splendor of the eternal city Gogol completed his work on Dead Souls (Mertvye Dushi), wrote Rome, The Overcoat (Shinel), the play Marriage (Zhenidba) and others.
His short story The Portrait was first published in Arabesques. Initially written between 1833-1834, Gogol considerably rewrote the story between 1841-42 while in Rome and republished it in its new form in the magazine The Contemporary. During his life in Italy he befriended his close neighbor and one of the greatest Russian fine artists Alexander Ivanov, spending much time in his art studio.
A painter with words, Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol established himself as the greatest satirist and mystic, fearlessly and truthfully analyzing life and its characters in the most unconventional ways. Sculpting bold caricature personalities, supernatural metamorphoses, and unexpected worlds in his deeply original Gogolesque style.