Known by many names: nesting dolls, matryoshka dolls, babushka dolls, nested dolls, stacking dolls, Russian Nesting Dolls have captured the attention of children, adults, doll enthusiasts, and art collectors across the globe.From their introduction to the world at the Paris World Exhibition in 1900, to the modern day, the almost deceptively simple concept of a set of smaller dolls nestled within larger dolls has endured not only as a popular children’s toy, or a collectible decoration, but as an icon synonymous with Russian culture.The first Russian nested doll set was made in 1890 by wood turning craftsman and wood carver Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter at Abramtsevo.Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan, a long and shapeless traditional Russian peasant jumper dress.
The figures inside may be of any gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby turned from a single piece of wood.Typically painted with subdued earth tones using an opaque form of watercolor paint called gouache, the original dolls from Sergiev Posad (50 miles north-east of Russia’s capital) inspired many of the themes that are still present in the modern nesting dolls.Russian nesting dolls are often seen as symbols of the feminine side of Russian culture. They are associated with family and fertility, and often used as the symbol for the epithet Mother Russia.
These dolls are a traditional representation of the mother carrying a child within her and can be seen as a representation of a chain of mothers carrying on the family legacy through the child in their womb.
You can learn more about Russian Stacking Dolls at https://www.therussianstore.com/blog/the-history-of-nesting-dolls/.