At Harvest Time. Russian Empire


Shown here is a peasant couple cutting and tying sheaves of grain in the light of the setting sun. The sheaves of rye are bound at the bottom and arranged with the grain head downward. The “tent” shape of the sheaves rests on short columns of grain stalks. This intricate method allowed the grain to dry before threshing. The background reveals an expansive field that remains to be harvested. The gathering of grain has been an appealing subject in art history, seen most notably in The Gleaners by Jean-François Millet, as well as in the paintings by Aleksei Venetsianov. 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. In 1909 the photographer traveled along the Mariinsk Waterway System, linking Saint Petersburg with the Volga River basin and now known as the Volga-Baltic Waterway. The exact location of this image is not specified, although the position of this photograph in Prokudin-Gorskii’s album of contact prints suggests that the view is along the Sheksna or Vytegra Rivers within the Mariinsk system.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

На жнитве. [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