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Beautiful Nesting Dolls

Matryoshka dolls or nesting dolls are a set of artfully painted dolls, made of wood, which separate in the middle to reveal a smaller painted figurines stacked inside each other, like an onion. These dolls are typically intricately painted and can be displayed stacked or standing side by side.

Modern day Matryoshka dolls are typically associated with Russia, however the first nesting dolls were originally from China. Dating back to the Song Dynasty, around 1000 AD, the early Chinese nesting boxes were both functional and decorative. This concept was applied to Chinese dolls at some point in the 1700s. In these traditional Chinese sets of dolls a grain of rice was placed in the smallest doll.

It wasn’t long after they originated in China that nesting dolls were being made in Japan. The Japanese dolls were created to look like the Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology, with the largest doll being Fukurokuju, the Japanese god of happiness and longevity.

Japan already had a history of hand painted dolls with no arms or legs and simplified facial features, such as the Daruma and Kokeshi dolls, so it’s no wonder that nesting dolls became prevalent. Kokeshi dolls are painted, hand made-wooden dolls with their start from the Edo period in Japan, sometime between 1600-1868. Daruma dolls are paper-mache dolls that originated in Takasaki in the 1760s.

Daruma dolls are paper-mache dolls that originated in Takasaki in the 1760s

So from here how did the nesting dolls make it to Russia? Legend suggests that the earliest Japanese nesting dolls were made by a Russian monk. However, the earliest Russian nesting dolls date back to the 1890s and were created by Sergei Malytuin and Vasiliy Zveydochin at the Abramtsevo estate of Savva Mamontov, a wealthy Russian patron of arts. Malytuin designed and painted the dolls that Zveydochin made the first set from soft linden wood. This first Russian nesting doll showcased a Russian peasant family and consisted of eight dolls, a mother and her seven children. Today this set can be seen at the Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys in Zagorsk, Russia.

Nesting dolls today can be found throughout the world including Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Italy, the Czech Republic and of course right here in our Kansas City Gallery!

These dolls go by many names including Matryoshka or Martioshka, nesting dolls or stacking dolls and come in a variety of designs. They have become very popular since they make unique gifts and beautiful home decorations due to their artistic quality and interesting design.

Matryoshka, nesting dolls at Art4U Gallery in Kansas City, MO.

If you want to pick up your own set of beautiful, unique nesting dolls, make sure to stop by the Art4U Gallery! And of course tell us what's your favorite thing about nesting dolls in the comments below?

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