The Matryoshka, or Russian nesting doll, is one of the
most popular and endearing examples of Russian folk art.
Fashioned entirely of natural products, each
doll is hand painted and therefore completely unique.
The attention to detail and creative skill of the
Matryoshka artists will amaze you. Dolls can range in size from large, 15"
masterpieces, containing 20 or more successively smaller versions within, to
tiny creations that require a magnifying glass to paint them.
The origins of the Matryoshka doll are unclear. It is
believed that they first appeared some 100 years ago and were modeled after a
wooden doll brought to Russia from the island of Honshu in Japan.
Interestingly, the Japanese claim their dolls were inspired by the work of a
Russian monk. This monk created a wooden figure depicting a good-natured, bald
old man thought to represent a Buddhist sage. This first prototype still exists
and can be seen in the Museum of Toys in Sergiev Posad, Russia.
In Russian, the word Matryoshka is associated with
fertility and motherhood. It's not surprising then that many of the first
Matryoshka dolls utilized the image of a portly, chubby cheeked mother on the
outside doll with the likenesses of her numerous children painted on the
smaller, inner dolls. Even today, when artists are painting a variety of
subjects, the image of the robust and cheerful mother is still one of the most
The reputation for exquisite craftsmanship that the
Russian Matryoshka doll enjoys today is due in no small part to A.I. Mamontov.
Mamontov was a true patron of Russian art. A print shop owner and publisher, he
was so taken by the work of Matryoshka artists that he set up a studio where
they could practice and perfect their art.
Known as the "Children's Education Workshop", Mamontov's studio employed
some of Russia's finest toy makers and painters, and is credited with
developing what is known as the "Russian-style Matryoshka".
In today's world of mass-produced products, it's easy to
see why Matryoshka dolls are so popular. To hold one in your hands, admire its exquisite workmanship and feel the
anticipation and thrill of discovering smaller and smaller dolls hidden one
inside the other, is like nothing else you've ever experienced. When you own a
Russian Matryoshka, you own not only a piece of Russian history, but a bit of
its childlike wonder and magic as well.
These exceptional HAND PAINTED Nesting Dolls are created
out of birch wood in Russia. The larger figure opens up to fit the smaller one
inside it. It takes a lot of time to make these dolls. The tree was cut in
the spring, stripped of its bark
leaving a few rings to prevent the wood from cracking when dried. The logs are
dried and kept in the open for several years. They are then cut in smaller
pieces. All the operations do not involve any measurement and rely on intuition
and require great skill. After the turning work on a lathe is done the dolls
are cleaned, primed with starchy glue to make its surface smooth, polished and
now are ready for painting. After having been hand-painted they are dried for
several days. Then the dolls are ready for the lacquer to be applied. Many
different coats are needed to give the doll the brilliant shine. The dolls are
covered with 6 or 7 layers of lacquer.
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