Nesting Doll Art (Matryoshka Art)

One image from my childhood that fills me with nostalgic feelings and always brings a smile to my face is that of a nesting doll. It's probably no surprise that other items featuring matryoshka dolls have the same effect on me: nesting doll art, necklaces, salt + pepper shakers, cookie cutters, fabric, etc.

A matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nesting doll (or incorrectly as a babushka doll), refers to a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside the other. The word matryoshka (literally little matron) is a diminutive form of the Russian female first name Matryona. The first nesting doll set was carved in 1890. Although they were inspired by similar dolls found in Japan, there are four main people to thank for the nesting doll style you recognize and love today:

  1. Savva Mamontov - Russian industrialist and patron of arts. At the beginning of the 20th century, he founded an artistic colony that included most of the best Russian artists of that time.
  2. Vasily Zvyozdochkin - Carved the dolls, a tedious and painstaking process.
  3. Sergey Malyutin - Folk crafts painter who designed and painted the dolls.
  4. Elizabeth Mamontov - Wife of Savva. She presented the dolls at the Exposition Universelle (1900) in Paris, where the toy earned a bronze medal.

Nesting dolls often follow a theme. For example, in addition to my traditional nesting dolls from Poland, I also have a few other sets: the nativity, owls, robots, cats, and bugs. I'm sure this is just the beginning of my collection.

After asking (harassing?) Andy for a couple years, he finally made his first nesting doll piece in August of this year. Others must have had the same sentiment as me, because it sold almost immediately.