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Russian Matryoshka

Russian Matryoshka The history of Matryoshka is not that long. It has just celebrated 110 years old birthday. But this colourful girl has managed to conquer hearts of the people all over the world. Whoever comes back from Russia brings this nesting doll, which embodies Russian culture.

The first Russian nesting doll (matryoshka) was born in 1890 in the workshop "Children's Education" situated in Abramtsevo estate near Moscow. The owner of Abramtsevo was Savva Mamontov - an industrialist and a patron of the arts. Many famous Russian artists worked along with folk craftsmen in workshops of Mamontov.
Matryoshka came to Russia from Japan. There was a legend that the first doll of such type on Island Honshu was made by an unknown Russian monk.

Russian wooden doll within smaller dolls were called matryoshka. The name Matryona or Matriosha was a very popular female name in Old Russia among peasants. Scholars say this name has got a Latin root "mater" and means "Mother".

Subsequently, Matriosha became a symbolic name and was used specially to name brightly painted wooden figurines made in such a way that they could be taken apart to reveal smaller dolls fitting inside one another.

The most famous matryoshkas were from Sergiev Posad, Semionovo, Polkhovsky Maidan and Vjatka. All these nesting dolls have their own peculiarity and beauty.

Traditional Sergiev Posad matryoshka consists of from 2 to 24 pieces. Their faces were oval and strict. The heads of many matryoshkas were greatly enlarged that's why a face dominated a body.
Professional artists made the first painted matryoshkas just for fun. That is why these dolls are so expressive and won admiration of adults and children. In the initial period of matryoshka development particular attention was paid to faces of the matryoshka, but clothes were not painted in details. Such dolls depicted different characters and types: peasants, merchants and noblemen.

Folk art tradition was very important in the development of the present Sergiev Posad style. Due to widest layer of folk culture, matryoshka continued to exist even later, after Russian style developed by Russian professional artists was forgotten.

The first matryoshka in Semionovo was made by Arsenty Mayorov, who brought an unpainted nesting doll from the fair in Nizhniy Novgorod and his elder daughter Liuba painted it using an ordinary goose feather and aniline dyes.

Semionovskay matryoshka was more decorative and symbolic than the matryoshka from Sergiev Posad. This nesting doll is famous for containing many pieces from 2 to 72. An apron is considered to be the main thing in painting of Semionovo. A bright bouquet of flowers is painted on it. It is possible to recognize the technique of old Russian masters. The early matryoshkas of Semionovo were more in the spirit of old Russian painting traditions, the lines were more graphic and refined

In the 80-s artists from Semionovo developed new types of matryoshkas. Artist Serov designed a new matryoshka "The Father Frost and Snegurotchka". This matryoshka was designed in such a way that children could learn to count: inside a big "mother" 10 small were hidden.

Polkhovsky-Maidan is a motherland of another style of matryoshka. The first matryoshka was made in Polkhovsky Maidan in 1930-s, the colours of matryoshkas are brighter and more expressive than the colours of Semionovo matryoshkas, their ornaments are bigger as well.

The matryoshkas of Polkhovsky Maidan are manufactured in the peasant primitive style, which resembles children's drawings. It is a typical village beauty with knitted brows and a face framed in black locks. The ringlets of hair are a genuine element of local women's headdress.

The most northern of all Russian matryoshkas is the one which come from Vjatka. It is also the" youngest "- they began producing nesting dolls in Vjatka only in 30 s. Being a typical northerner this matryoshka is blue-eyed and shy. Its most distinctive feature is rye straw inlay stuck on wet lacquer.

Russian epos as a source of themes is very popular with matryoshka makers now.
Among the ornament themes there are scenes of folk outdoor fetes, fairs, religion, an original Russian large family affecting relationship of children and animals. There are also merchant and high life motifs. Russian history is reflected in the authors ' matryoshka.
At present days authors of matryoshka also take use of the themes of Russian and European paintings, landscape painting and still-life. All this allows us to view the art of making matryoshka as an independent branch of Russian art with a promising future.

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