Monks at Work. Planting Potatoes. Gethsemane Monastery


In 1910 Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) visited Tver’ Province northwest of Moscow. One of the region’s major religious institutions is the Saint Nil-Stolobenskii Monastery (Nilo-Stolobenskaia pustyn’), situated on Stolobnyi Island in Lake Seliger. Prokudin-Gorskii photographed extensively at the monastery as well as at the affiliated Gethsemane Hermitage (skete), established in the mid-17th century on nearby Gorodomlia Island for monks who wanted greater solitude. The hermitage was also known as a disciplinary site, which might be the case for these monks shown engaged in the arduous work of potato planting. In the background is one of the island’s famed pine forests, whose beauty formed the subject of two paintings in 1890-91 by Ivan Shishkin. In the early 20th century the hermitage was revived with the building of a number of log structures. It was closed in the 1920s and converted to a kind of hotel for tourists in the 1950s. 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

Монахи за работой. Посадка картофеля. [Гефсиманский скит]

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: January 13, 2017