Cornflowers in a Rye Field. Russian Empire


A major component of the Volga-Baltic Waterway (formerly called the Mariinsk Canal System), linking Saint Petersburg with the Volga River basin, is the Sheksna River, which drains the southeastern part of White Lake (Beloe ozero). The original length of the Sheksna was 395 kilometers, from White Lake to the Sheksna’s confluence with the Volga at the town of Rybinsk. The Sheksna is now largely hidden by vast reservoirs created in the mid-20th century that submerged the land along the river. Among the lost villages was Leushino, located below Cherepovets near the present village of Miaksa. This 1909 view of cornflowers in a rye field is centered on a log windmill whose upper part rotates on a cuboid base. Dimly visible in the background are buildings in Leushino. The overcast sky required a longer than normal exposure, and the view is out of focus, perhaps because of unstable placement of the camera tripod. Damage to the color separation layers is also visible. The image is by Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944), who used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire in the early 20th century. Some of Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographs date from about 1905, but the bulk of his work is from between 1909 and 1915, when, with the support of Tsar Nicholas II and the Ministry of Transportation, he undertook extended trips through many different parts of the empire.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Васильки во ржи. [Российская империя]

Type of Item

Physical Description

Glass negative (presented as a digital color composite)


  • Prokudin-Gorskii’s photographic work survives primarily in two forms: 1,901 black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters, which Prokudin-Gorskii used to make color prints and lantern slides; and 12 albums of sepia-tone prints, made from the glass negatives, which Prokudin-Gorskii compiled as a record of his travels and studies. The Library of Congress purchased the glass plate negatives and the albums from the Prokudin-Gorskii family in 1948. In 2004, the Library of Congress had digital color composites made from all the surviving glass negatives using a software algorithm to automatically align the color components. As with most historical photographs, title and subject identifications are corrected and enhanced through new research. Current information on the collection is at

Last updated: September 23, 2016