Monastery's Boat. A Study. Solovetski Islands


The Murmansk Railroad was built by the Russian government during World War I to connect Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) to the ice-free port of Romanov-on-Murman (now Murmansk). Construction lasted from 1914 to the spring of 1917 when the line was completed. Seen here is a large rigged sailing vessel that belonged to the Transfiguration Monastery, which was located near the rail route, on Great Solovetskii Island. Founded in 1436, by the 16th century the monastery had become one of the most important spiritual centers in Russia, despite its location on a windswept archipelago in the southern part of the White Sea. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the monastery received thousands of visitors and pilgrims each year, who arrived by boat from the port of Kem. In contrast to his sharp documentary work, the photographer called this view an “etude” (study) because of the evocative nature of the silhouette of the boat against the evening sky. 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 his 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. Support for his work was renewed during the First World War, and in 1916 he was commissioned to photograph this new railroad project; he also photographed regions along the route.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Монастырское судно. Этюд. [Соловецкие острова]

Additional Subjects

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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