Home :: The history of nesting dolls (matryoshka)

The history of nesting dolls (matryoshka)

Matryoshka is a traditional Russian souvenir. It is popular among Russians and foreign visitors, but not everyone knows the history of nesting dolls.

The history of manufacturing Russian nesting dolls has three main stages. The first stage began with the first dolls in 1890 and continued until 1930, when individual creativity has almost stopped in the Soviet Union and the second stage has started. During the Soviet industrialization, from 1930 to 1990, the nesting dolls usually were making in factories. It was impossible in Soviet times to work individually, so there were a lot of factory-made nesting dolls with matching faces but without a bit of soul. However, not many author`s dolls were made by rare masters but now most of such dolls are in the private collections. The third period began in 1990 and continues to the present.

Nesting dolls appeared in Russia in 1890. Its prototype was the chiseled figure of Buddhist saint Fukuruma, which was brought from the Honshu Island in manor Abramtsevo near Moscow. The figure of doll was a sage with outstretched head because of long meditations. Fukuruma was dismountable. Smaller figure was hidden inside it, which also consisted of two halves. Total there were five figures.

In one version wife of owner of the estate brought this doll from Japan. Another version says that unknown Russian monk brought Fukuruma. The manor Abramtsevo belonged to philanthropist and industrialist Sava Mamontov. He is one of the first Russian industrialists who began to patronize artists. Before the appearance Japanese doll Russian masters were already doing nested toys, but it was simpler forms such as apples and Easter eggs.

Artist Sergei Malytin made a sketch of new doll on the pattern of Fukuruma and asked Vasiliy Zvezdochkin to help. The turner machined figures, and then Malytin painted them. He portrayed girl in a sundress and scarf, with a black cock in her hands. The toy consisted of eight parts: in the girl was enclosed boy, further a girl was again, and so on. All of them were different from each other, and the last, eighth, looked as baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. At the time, the most common was the name Matrona, so there appeared all the favorite Matryoshka.

Appearance nesting dolls in Russia at the end of the last century was not accidental. It was during this period representatives of Russian artistic intelligentsia were began to seriously engage in collecting works of folk art, as well as were trying to creatively interpret national artistic traditions. Besides the Zemstvo institutions, at the expense private art patrons were organized mugs and workshops, where under the leadership professional artists were studying craftsmen and were being created household items and toys in the Russian style. An interest in matryoshka explained not only the originality of her form and decorative painting, but probably kind of tribute to all the Russian fashion, disseminated at the beginning of the XX century thanks to the "Russian Seasons" SP Diaghilev in Paris.

Annual fairs in Leipzig also contributed to the mass export of matryoshka. Since 1909, Russian matryoshka has become as a permanent member of the exhibition in Berlin and of annual bazaar of handicrafts (the beginning of the XX century, London). Thanks to the traveling exhibition, organized by the "Russian society Shipping and Trade", residents of coastal cities in Greece, Turkey and the Middle East met with Russian nesting dolls.

The painting of nesting dolls was becoming more highly colored and diverse. Were portrayed girls in sundresses, headscarves, with baskets, bundles, bouquets of flowers. There were dolls, depicting shepherds with a reed pipe, bearded old men with a big stick, groom with a mustache and bride in a wedding dress. The fantasy of artists did not have any limit. Matryoshka were made so to be as its main purpose - to show a surprise. So inside Matryoshka "Bride and Groom" were placed their relatives. Matryoshka could be associated with specific family dates. Besides family themes, were nesting dolls designed for a certain level of knowledge and education.

The general interest in Russian history, as promoted by Moscow Province Zemstvo, was exerting influence on this subject matter at the beginning of XX century. Between 1900 and 1910 there were a series of nested dolls depicting of Old Russian knights and boyars, and those and others sometimes were machined in the form of the helmet. In honor of the centennial of World War II with the French in 1912 were made nesting dolls from eight parts named "Kutuzov" and "Napoleon" with the members of their staffs inside. Not been overlooked and beloved folk hero Stephan Razin with his closest associates and Persian princess.

As subjects of painting on nesting dolls were used and literary works of Russian classics: "The Tale of Tsar Saltan", "Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish" by Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin, "The Little Humpbacked Horse" by Peter Pavlovich Yershov, fable "Quartet" by Ivan Andreevich Krylov and others.

100th anniversary Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol in 1909 was marked by the appearance of a series of nested dolls depicting the heroes of his works. Quite often were creating ethnographic images on sketches by artists - professionals. They were fairly reflecting the characteristic features and details of traditional clothing Baltic, Far North and other regions.

Now folk masters from different regions of Russia produce nesting dolls. They differ in the proportions of turning forms and in painting, which are focused on demonstrating features of the national women's clothing, a characteristic color and detail of the costume.

Now there are many kinds of nesting dolls, the most popular are Polkhovskaya (from Połkhov Maidan) and Semyonovskaya. Since the early 1990-s handicraft of Matryoshka painting appears in major cities such as Moscow, Saint Petersburg, also in some stand alone tourist centers. Shape and style were often peculiar to Sergievskaya nesting dolls. So now there are Matryoshka markets with products from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, very looks like of nesting dolls of Sergiev Posad.

Despite the diversity of today's product line, it is already possible to identify a trend in shaping the style of "Matryoshka 1990s". It is characterized by focus on the details of Russian costume with scarves and shawls based on a famous Pavlovian shawls.

Currently on the trays there are not only dolls, painted in the traditional style. There can be found very popular author`s dolls, made by a professional individual artists. The price of such a toy depends just as on the fame of the author so on the quality of work. Now can be found nesting dolls, which were made in a single copy. Some of them have copied from famous paintings by artists such as Vasnetsov, Kustodiev, Brullov and others.