The history of Matryoshka creation dates back to the 19th century in Sergiev Posad, when the first such doll was created. The author, Sergei Malyutin called the doll "Matryona" (short name Matryosha) that was the most common female name of that time, which was associated with a mother of many children. Thus, the classic nesting doll is considered the main Russian symbol of motherhood and fertility.
Originally, Matryoshka was a toy for children, but over time, it is used both as a toy and as a decorative doll. Today, the Russian traditional nesting doll is the most striking national souvenir that personifies Russia, its history, beauty and mysterious giant soul. Everyone will fall in love with these nesting doll jewelry boxes, which are elegantly hand-painted and decorated with magnificent headscarves and delightful flowers. The Russian nesting dolls are truly an epitome of the traditional Russian style.
Matryoshka dolls are created by hand, and the images are carefully hand-painted by artists. Each master tries to show his individuality and uses his own painting techniques, different materials and tools in the creation of Matryoshka dolls. Therefore, when looking at this piece of art, you will be amazed not only by the thin lines of the painting, but also by feeling the soul of the artist.
We have big and small nested dolls, key chain matryoshkas, and Never-Fall Doll matryoshkas! Cartoon matryoshkas, cats and dogs matryoshkas, famous writers and composers dolls! You can choose from our classic Russian nesting dolls (hand painted wooden dolls that are placed one inside another) or fine matryoshka jewelry (pendants and earrings in Fabergé- Egg Styles). A matryoshka doll is an absolutely fantastic work of art that makes you feel great every time you look at its delicate and beautiful painting ornament.
When one thinks of Russia, the images that usually come to mind are bears, vodka, and the iconic yellow hammer and sickle on blood-red background motif. However, it is nesting dolls that have become one of the most recognizable symbols of Russia.
In fact, a matryoshka can rightfully be called a true cultural phenomenon, full of visible, as well as clandestine meanings and remarkable in its uniqueness. Nesting dolls are found in countless collections, belonging to true art connoisseurs, as their tremendous potential for conveying deep meanings of multitudes of events, happening both in time and in space, answers the most important aspect, or essence, of true art
Our website offers classic, as well as modern, or unusual matryoshka dolls for every taste and budget to make it easy and convenient to get that perfect traditional regular or handmade nesting doll, to the delight of every one of your friends and family, adding to the glory of this truly Russian souvenir!
The very first Russian matryoshka doll set was carved in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin and hand painted by Sergey Malutin in the workshop, called "Children's Education," located in the Abramtsevo estate, outside Moscow. The owner of Abramtsevo was Savva Mamontov – an industrialist who was a notable patron of the arts. During the end of the 19th century, Russia experienced a zenith in the arts that was backed by the nobility, rich businessmen, and landowners. Mr. Mamontov was no exception. Savva Mamontov's wife presented the dolls at the 1900 Exposition Universalle in France, where the nesting doll earned the bronze medal. This promptly made the world fall in love with these cute, bubbly doll stacks, turning them into the archetype of The Russian gift.
Nobody knows exactly how the nesting doll (a.k.a. babushka) came to be, but there exist many legends and myths that surround its conception. Some say that the artist and designer were inspired by the Furuma Japanese doll of a bald Buddhist monk that was brought from the island of Hoshu, Japan. Other legends contend that it is in fact based on the Japanese Daruma nesting doll. Some babushkas, or grandmothers tell their children that both men (Zvyozdochkin and Malutin) were divinely inspired to create such an ecclesiastic and refined work of art. Zvyozdochkin and Malutin decided to design a doll that would convey the very core of the Russian dusha, or soul, which represents specific Russian cultural and artistic traditions to the world.
But why the name matryoshka? The word matryoshka is based on the Russian name of Matryona (or Matryosha), which was one of the most popular female names if the 19th century Russia, emphasizing the fact that this doll represents all Russia women. At a deeper level, for many, this name came to symbolize motherhood, fertility, and warm care, as at the root of the name Matryona, lies the Latin word “mater,” or mother.
Finally, even the shape of this doll conveys the feeling of motherly love and safety, as it did for thousands of years, at least as far back as 26,000 years, which is evident by such archaeological discoveries as Venus of Willendorf, found in Austria, which exhibits the same general form of a very shapely female figure. It is of no surprise then, that in the most common nesting doll sets, the largest doll represents the mother and the smaller matryoshkas represent her children, portraying the typical Russian family, coming to symbolize, at the same time, some of the oldest human social structures – the closely-knit, compact, and interdependent organization of a family.
Sometimes matryoshka is called – babushka! In Russian, the word "babushka" means "grandmother." The reason for that is that babushka is the ultimate mom! Not only does she live to make grandchildren happy, but babushka is a mother of mom who also has a mom and babushka on her own. A babushka matryoshka doll (Russian nesting doll) – is not just a cute doll with a fancy name, but it also educates us where we come from and where we are going. A girl becomes a mom, a babushka, a grand babushka, and it goes on forever. Russian Dolls give us a reminder never to forget these ties between generations.
Through the years, nesting dolls have evolved to become a form of amazing folk art and a metaphorical representation of a multitude of other themes and motifs in Russian history and culture. As the production of nesting dolls spread across Russia, so did the styles that were used by artists to paint their dolls. The eventual range in styles included the famous in its own right, white and blue porcelain designs, the world renowned Pavlovo Posad shawl and Russian scarf designs, as well as caricatures of Russian families belonging to varying socio-economic classes such as peasants, nobles, merchants, farmers and laborers – people from all walks of life.
The nesting dolls also portrayed notable figures such as the Imperial Family, boyars and their families, politicians, celebrities, musicians and other such acclaimed political and cultural personages.
Although the artistic design and popularity of Russian stacking dolls has greatly evolved through the decades, the methods that are used to produce them haven't changed at all since 1890. The process of making the dolls is very meticulous itself, and greatly relies on the wood turning skills of Russian craftsmen. Nesting dolls are usually made from oak or birch wooden blocks. Timber that is used to manufacture nesting dolls is cut down and stripped completely of its bark and stacked in piles in order to allow for air flow and proper conditioning of the wood. Once the craftsman determines that the wood is ready to be cut, the logs are then sawn into planks.
The wood is then turned about 15 times in the hands of a turner before becoming a finished doll. At that stage, the blank nesting dolls are hand-painted by specially trained artists with the brightest colors and the highest attention to detail. Due to the high amount of precision and the complexity of design that go into making babushka dolls, machines cannot be used at any stage of the process. In fact, it is the hard work, craftsmanship, and effort of both the artist and the wood carver that, through a process of almost magical metamorphosis, for over 100 years have come together to turn rough blocks of wood into the uniquely beautiful works of art, recognized the world over.
The fascinating concept of the traditional Russian Nesting doll has spawned a modern collection of ravishing reinvented Matryoshkas. Traditionally Nesting dolls were designed looking like a Russian woman dressed in Russian sarafans or in winter fur coats and scarves. In the traditional Nesting doll sets the number of dolls ranges from 5 to 30 and all of the dolls look almost identical to one another. The Babushka doll may wear a costume that is red, the next one yellow, the third blue, and so forth. Or the costumes may be the same, but each Matryoshka may carry something different in her hands: from a loaf of bread (a symbol of welcome in Russia) and a bowl of salt (representing welcome and the family's offering of its wealth to guests - salt was once very rare), to flowers (often representing the cities where the dolls are crafted) and basket of strawberries (for the sweetness of the garden).
Later Nesting dolls craftsmen started to use a wider range of subject matter other than the traditional Russian woman/mother: Russian folk tales, seasons of the year, fairy tales, household pets, etc. Sometimes a different scene from the tale appears on each nest; stories are also told in the apron panels of traditional doll styles. Sometimes Nesting doll represented the whole family with numerous children and members of household. They portrayed boyars and their wives, Russian nobility of the 17th century and legendary Russian bogatyrs (warriors). Some Matryoshka dolls were devoted to historical events. For instance, in 1912, to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of Russian victory over France Nesting dolls portrayed Kutuzov and Napoleon and their field commanders. Artists created Matryoshkas devoted to book characters: Gogol's Taras Bulba and Plyushkin, Pushkin’s Princess Swan and Eugene Onegin, Yershov's Little Humpbacked Horse. Nowadays Nesting doll turns out to be the best embodiment of the present time spirit conveying the sense and highlights of the events happening over time. There is a whole range of Russian Nesting dolls depicting Russian tsars, Russian state and public officials. One of the most common themes for Babushka dolls during Perestroika were Russian leaders: from Mikhail Gorbachev and Nikita Khrushchev, to Josef Stalin and Vladimir Lenin. Modern Russian politicians as well as leaders of other countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, France and others have not escaped this fate.
Modern Nesting Dolls sets have been made showing images of Russian historical landmarks like Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, the Hermitage Art Museum in St. Petersburg and also most famous landmarks around the world like the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Artists are eager to appeal to the buying public and to show the quality of their artwork. They choose other subjects for the Matryoshkas such as famous sport players, images of paintings from the Italian Renaissance, Santa Claus with his reindeers. Popular culture, including various singers, band members, actors, cartoon characters and celebrities, are another source of inspiration of Nesting dolls design. And as the popularity of Matryoshka Nesting dolls has grown, more people are interested in making their own customized sets. Kits and special blank Matryoshka dolls are available on our web-site to allow anyone to create their own unique Nesting dolls.
STPgoods.com and St. Petersburg Global Trade House are committed to offering babushka dolls of the highest caliber of quality. Our buyers travel directly to the producers in Russia to source the best dolls and ship them to North America, allowing us to monitor every step in the process of bringing these beautiful creations to the consumers, ensuring that every matryoshka doll we sell adheres to our high standards of quality, while keeping its prices down. Because we travel directly to the Russian nesting doll makers, many of our matryoshkas are made to our custom specifications, making them even more unique. Russian nesting dolls make wonderful Russian gifts, and are traditionally given on many special occasions such as weddings, baby showers, birthdays, and holidays, such as Christmas and Easter also it can by wooden baby toy! For many, matryoshkas are the epitome of true collectibles, becoming objects of lifelong obsession, wonder, and pride.
In the end, a matryoshka may not be the most expensive piece of art one could find in Russia, nor may it be the most beautiful. But that is not the true purpose of this alluringly simple wooden doll, for it contains something that no physical object can ever replace – it contains a part of the soul of Russia. Just like a nesting doll, the smooth and wide features visible on the surface, make it seemingly easy to experience all that was and that is this gigantic country with its limitless open spaces and its kind and generous people. Opening the top layer, however, reveals the intricate, hidden Russia, the Russia that is almost unknown to outsiders. The deeper one delves into exploring it, the more of its mysteries come into the light, and this process continues into infinity. And that is the real meaning and purpose behind each of the Matryoshka Nesting Dolls because the real treasure is not knowing everything, but spending a lifetime in the process of discovery.