Water Lilies


In 1905, Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) traveled and photographed extensively in the Caucasus region. In 1912, Prokudin-Gorskii returned to photograph the dramatic landscape and ancient monuments of the mountainous interior of the Caucasus region. He also photographed Borjomi (formerly known as Borzhom), located in the Borjomi Gorge in present-day south-central Georgia. Long occupied by the Ottoman Empire, Borjomi came under Russian control in the 1820s and developed into a resort known for its waters. In 1871, the town was granted to Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaevich (1832–1909), who served as Governor General of Caucasia between 1862 and 1882. Nikolaevich played a major role in transforming Borjomi into a destination for the elite of Russia. His son, Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich (1859–1919), continued the development of Borjomi as a spa destination, including the construction of an Italianate palace at Likani, just to the south of Borjomi. Built in 1892–95, the palace was set within a large park that had both formal and landscape elements. Seen in this photograph are water lilies of the genus Nymphaea, in a small pool with a rusticated border. Rooted in soil, these ornamental aquatic plants have floating circular leaves with a radial notch. Reflected in the pool are the boughs of a pine tree. Prokudin-Gorskii frequently photographed plants to document the local environment and to demonstrate the richness of his color process and the range of his photographic technique. 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

Водяные линии [i. е. лилии]

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 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/prok/.

Last updated: October 7, 2016