Peasant Woman Breaking Flax. Perm Province


In 1909 and 1910, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled extensively in the territory around the Ural Mountains, where he photographed railroad installations, factories, urban settings, and natural landscapes. This image shows a woman preparing flax to be spun into linen. The original caption indicates that the photograph was taken in Perm province, but does not designate a specific place. In order to prepare flax for spinning into linen, the fibers must be laboriously separated from the rest of the plant. First the stalks are soaked in a process known as retting, which rots the unnecessary inner stalk. Next, the flax is dressed, a three-step process that begins with breaking the flax stalks in a wooden device with a blunt crushing blade. The peasant woman shown here is dressed in traditional finery consisting of a sarafan smock, an embroidered apron with a long tasseled sash. A golden necklace adorns her neck over a crimson blouse. In the background a high log fence encloses a yard containing a log barn and large stacks of drying hay. Prokudin-Gorskii 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.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Крестьянка мнет лен. Пермской губ.

Additional Subjects

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 28, 2016