Smolensk. View from Lopatinskii Garden


In 1911 and 1912, in connection with the centenary of the 1812 Napoleonic campaign against Russia, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) photographed sites associated with events along the invasion route. Prominent among them was the city of Smolensk, which endured an attack in August 1812 that led to the destruction of most of the city by fire. Smolensk is one of the oldest cities of medieval Rus’, with references to its existence as early as the 9th century. This view toward the northwest, taken near the massive Smolensk fortress, leads in the left distance toward the Church of Archangel Michael, one of the major surviving monuments of late 12th-century Russian architecture. A bell tower, built in 1780, stands to the northeast of the church. The Dnieper River flows through the distant valley in the center. Wooden houses and barns are scattered over the uneven terrain with steep ravines in the foreground. Prokudin-Gorskii used a special color photography process to create a visual record of the Russian Empire. 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

Смоленск. Вид из Лопатинскаго сада

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: October 7, 2016