Press Esc to close

From Russsia with love

Trisha Bhattacharya, May 03, 2015: 23:16 IST
Beautiful and enigmatic, a series of painted wooden dolls from Russia — one hollow doll housing another, seems like a mystery to uncover and a treasure to unearth.

Sets of Russian dolls, known as matryoshka or matrioshka dolls, also called the ‘Russian nesting doll’, are usually used as toys or decoration items. They come in numbered sets, wherein a smaller wooden doll is placed inside a bigger doll and this continues until all the varying-in-size dolls find placement inside the biggest mother doll. The smallest doll is usually never hollow.

Original blank dolls, created in differing shapes and sizes, are painted as a set to represent a similar pattern or subject. These are subsequently lacquered. The themes painted could be traditional, religious, familial, musical, artsy, political, could be about animals, cartoons, films, literary characters, fairy-tale figures, or could be custom-designed. Commonly seen Russian dolls are portrayals of a portly girl or a woman in peasant clothing, holding a utensil, flowers or even a bird. The dolls could also be painted as a man or a boy. The name matryoshka is considered to have come from the Latin word, mater, meaning mother, because, matryona or matryoisha, meant ‘a motherly woman’ in Russia.

Michael Terletskiy from Russian Crafts, Saint Petersburg, has been producing and selling nesting dolls since 1991. He explains, “Earlier, English-speaking people called these toys nesting or stacking dolls. Some people, from Finland or Australia, called it babushka, which means grandma. Sometime in 2000s, the name matryoshka became common. The first Russian matryoshka was said to have been made in the late 1890s, in an estate close to Moscow. It was crafted by Vasily Zvyozdochkin, who made blank wooden dolls which were painted by artist Sergey Malyutin.”

Amongst plenty of themes, the most popular Russian doll theme is floral — ranging from simple to intricate, with heavy decorations. Other popular themes are Russian tales, animals, political, ballet, celebrities and so on. Wood, mainly linden tree, is the main material. Linden is a unique, soft and light material, and after drying, keeps its shape. Birch tree wood is also used, but it is heavier and tougher; it is harder to turn dolls from it. Matryoshka dolls from birch were made in the past in Belorussia.

Speaking about the process of making these dolls, Terletskiy says, “At least two artists are involved — a craftsman who prepares the blank dolls, and an artist who paints them. At times, another person is employed for lacquering. Usually it is necessary to cover the painted surface with five to six layers of oil lacquer.”

These exquisite wooden specimen are reflections of the many facets of Russian art, culture and history, therefore they continue to influence admirers.


Go to Top

More from this section
Most trending stories
Photo Gallery
Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar and actor Rekha pose for a picture...

Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar and actor Rekha pose for a picture...

Actor Sunny Leone gives her measurement for her wax statue to be displayed at Madame Tussauds...

Actor Sunny Leone gives her measurement for her wax statue to be displayed at Madame Tussauds...

A woman dries red chillies at a field in a village near Jodhpur on Thursday....

A woman dries red chillies at a field in a village near Jodhpur on Thursday....

Pope Francis holds a cross that reads in Spanish

Pope Francis holds a cross that reads in Spanish "I give you my peace" upon arrival...

A villager displays a mortar shell allegedly fired on a residential area from the Pakistan...

A villager displays a mortar shell allegedly fired on a residential area from the Pakistan...

A contingent of Territorial Army wait during the Republic Day parade rehearsal at Rajpath...

A contingent of Territorial Army wait during the Republic Day parade rehearsal at Rajpath...

'Boyevaya Machine Pekhoty' tanks seen at Vijay Chowk during the Republic Day parade rehearsal...

'Boyevaya Machine Pekhoty' tanks seen at Vijay Chowk during the Republic Day parade rehearsal...

Artists paint an idol of Goddess Saraswati at a workshop in Amritsar on Thursday...

Artists paint an idol of Goddess Saraswati at a workshop in Amritsar on Thursday...

Cranes lift a Boeing 737-800 of Turkey's Pegasus Airlines in Trabzon, Turkey...

Cranes lift a Boeing 737-800 of Turkey's Pegasus Airlines in Trabzon, Turkey...

Tableaux artists rehearse for the upcoming Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi...

Tableaux artists rehearse for the upcoming Republic Day parade at Rajpath in New Delhi...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.