The Interesting History of Nesting Dolls and its Usage Today

Families would simply pass collectibles from one generation to the next one. This way they would leave a legacy that can be passed on to future generations. One such collection that proved to be very popular through the ages were nesting dolls. People will more than likely know what you are talking about if you mention the word “Matryoshka dolls (Russian nesting dolls). Interestingly, these dolls have been around since the early 1890’s.

Apparently, the first Matryoshka doll originated from Japan, and was introduced to Russia towards the end of the 19th century when they were experiencing an economic boom. At this time, new artistic trends started developing. It was during December 1896 in St Petersburg that an art expedition showing Japanese art took place. Among the wares shown was a very interesting doll that depicted a Buddhist man known as Fukuruma that came from the island of Honshu. This doll was made from wood and featured a bald-headed old guy that you could split into two halves. Neatly embedded inside, you would find a younger version of the same guy that was bearded with hair on his head

Even though the Japanese claimed that they were the inventors of the nesting dolls, they soon admitted that the very first nested dolls were carved and decorated by a Russian monk. Since then, these figurines were worked on by Vassily Zviozodochkin and the painter was Sergei Maliutin. It was cute to see how the first figurine depicted a mother, carrying a red-combed rooster, followed by 7 children of which the smallest one was a little sleeping baby.

Over the years, the nesting dolls were also used for gifting and exported all over the world in all shapes and sizes. Some of the dolls were even numbered to make it easier for doll collectors to line them up correctly. Although, the sizes would have given a pretty good indication which doll should be next.

Traditional stacking dolls consisted of young girls or women who were dressed in folk costumes with scarves on their heads to symbolize motherhood and fertility.


Modern Nesting Dolls

People would also refer to these dolls as stacking dolls. Since the invention of the Russian nesting dolls, many modern themes have been adopted such as Easter bunnies, other animals, athletes, and so forth. All in an effort to cater to different collectors. These days, you’ll find the dolls in almost any kind of theme, which make them the ideal collector’s gift. After all, hand painted dolls made out of wood hold a special place in the hearts of its recipients. Reason being, they are so perfectly crafted and very unique.

If you know of someone who are crazy over collectibles, then the nesting dolls would make the perfect gift. Each one of these carries a unique meaning and would look great once they are displayed. Children are generally fascinated by the fact that there is more than one doll inside of the original one. It will occupy them for hours on end as they spend time putting a set of wooden dolls together.

How the Nesting Dolls Are Made

Curiosity often gets the better of us. Therefore, it would be nice to know what is all involved putting stacking dolls together. Apparently, the original Matryoshka dolls were made from of wood consisting of balsa, lime, birch, alder and aspen. All the wood used, shared a special softness, consisted of a fine grain texture and proved to be very light. The logs used to make these dolls were aerated for a two year period prior to making the dolls.

Owning a Matryoshka is not just about having a piece of Russian history with you, but it is almost as if you have a bit of magic in your hands. Master woodworkers would decide when the logs were seasoned enough and ready to be worked. Amazingly, no measurements were used in the manufacturing of the nesting dolls. Artists would use oil paints or tempera paints to decorate the dolls with. At times, they would utilize watercolors and apply either wax or lacquer to serve as a protective layer.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nesting dolls have become even more popular and collectors all over the world are often seen at leading auction houses bidding on these prized collections. Other, less expensive versions are made available to tourists and serve as toys. Some of these masterpieces would easily command around $2,000 due to the skills involved in manufacturing the dolls.