Modern artists create many new styles of nesting dolls. Common themes include animal collections, portraits and caricatures of famous politicians, musicians and popular movie stars. Matryoshka dolls that feature communist leaders of Russia became very popular among Russian people in the early 1990s, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Today, some Russian artists specialize in painting themed matryoshka dolls that feature specific categories of subjects, people or nature.
Sergiev Posad was a place where the first nesting doll was made by artist Sergei Maliutin and a turner Vassiliy Zviozdochkin. This old Russian town is located 73 km (about 45 miles) from Moscow. It has grown up around famous Trinity-St.Sergius Monastery. In 1340 the monk Sergius founded a small temple lost in the midst of the wild thick forests. In time it was developed into the biggest monastery of Russia.
Arts and crafts were flourished in the towns and villages who surrounded the monastery. Wooden toys, which were known as "Trinity" toys, became particularly popular. According to the legend the first "Trinity" wooden toy was made by the Prior of the Monastery, Sergius Radonezhsky.
Sergiev Posad was a colorful, truly Russian town. The Monastery lent a unique peculiarity to it. The huge marketplace in front of the Monastery was almost always full of different people: merchants, monks, pilgrims and craftsmen were milling around.
"An old man", 8-p. matryoshka, beginning of 20 century
Professional artist made the first painted matryoshka of Sergiev Posad 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 particularly attention was paid to faces of matryoshka, clothes were not detailed painted. Such dolls depicted different character and types: peasants, merchants, and noblemen.
The faces of the early matryoshkas of Sergiev Posad were oval and strict. The heads of many matryoshkas were greatly enlarged that's why the face dominated the body. These dolls look primitive because of this.
The matryoshka of Sergiev Posad consisted of 2 to 24 pieces. The most popular dolls consisted of 3, 8 and 12 pieces. In 1913 a 48-pieces matryoshka made by N. Bulichev was displayed at the Exhibition of Toys in St. Petersburg.
Development of matryoshka greatly depended on turners' skill. Highly skilled masters turned matryoshkas with very thin sides, which was considered to be a special art of matryoshka turning. Apparently, painting was secondary. Professional artists who painted the first turned dolls did not treat it seriously enough. It was sort of entertainment. There are some matryoshkas - caricatures in the Museum Estate Polenovo. From other hand there were many independent workshops of Sergiev Posad
Where skilled artisans worked and they crated their own style of Russian matryoshka. 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 after Russian style, developed by Russian professional artists was forgotten. Icon painters of Sergiev Posad contributed a lot to matryoshka pictorial style. Anthropomorphism, in other words, resemblance to a human being of the Russia "take apart" dolls turned out to be the continuation of ancient Russian art tradition. An artist focused mainly on the figure of a person, his or her face.
This tradition of Russian ancient art came from Byzantine Empire, which had borrowed it from ancient Greek culture. The connection of certain early type of the matryoshkas of Sergiev Posad with the tradition of the local icon painting school is confirmed both stylistically and virtually. Along with the icons, matryoshkas were painted as well in the icon painting school of Sergiev Posad.
Porked (burned) nesting doll, 5-p., 1990-s.
Initially matryoshka types were rather different: they portrayed both male and female characters. There are some ethnographic matryoshkas: Samoyed (Eskimo), Gypsy Woman, American Man, Turk, Chinese, Lithuanians, and Tartar Family, Ukrainian and so on. Gradually female character became the main type of matryoshkas. The tradition of making special matryoshka proportion (1:2, that is ration between a matryoshka's width and height) were worked out.
Larisa Soloviova, an author of a great book about Russian matryoshkas divided development of this type of dolls into three periods:
1) 1890 -1930-s
2) 1930-s - beginning 1990s
3) Beginning of 1990-s till this time.
The first period contributed us the first matryoshka and created a wide verity of different types of dolls.
In 1918 the unique Museum of Russian and Foreign Toys was opened in Sergiev Posad. The first Russian matryoshka by S. Maliutin is a part of its exhibition. Soon afterwards the Toys Research Institute was organized there as well. The remarkable samples of toys were created in this institute including 42 pieces matryoshka. 60- pieces nesting doll is consider being the biggest one among the matryoshkas of Sergiev Posad. It was made in 1967.
The matryoshka of Sergiev Posad has its own peculiarities: its top part flows smoothly into thicker lower part: it is painted with gouache and has a varnish surface. In spite of, or perhaps because of the popularity of the matryoshkas of Sergiev Posad, matryoshka-making center started to spring up in Russia.
Semionovo is a large old center of wooden handicrafts. Huge thick forests, soil that is not good for agriculture, big outlet provided development of local people crafts. Of course, many changes occurred during long history of crafts in Semionovo but even now about 200 items are produced in factories and privately in this region, 33 countries import goods from this small town.
Semionovo is famous for its wooden painted tableware, wooden toys and, of course, matryoshkas. The first mention about this settlement goes as far as 1644. There is a legend that Semionovo was founded by merchant Semion and a run-a-way monk from Solovky monastery. In 1779 in time of Catherine the Second 3000 inhabitants lived and worked in this place. As the town was surrounded by forests people used to make goods of wood for themselves and for sale. Some crafters made for their children and just for fun wooden toys, with time it became a profitable business.
The first matryoshka in Semionovo was made well known by his wooden utensils, rattles, balls and apples Arsenty Mayorov.
In 1924 he brought from the fair in Nizhny Novgorod unpainted nesting doll. His elder daughter Luba painted it using ordinary goose feather and aniline dyes, which were used for painting of toys. Almost 20 years matryoshka made by Mayorov were the best in the area of Nizhny Novgorod. In 1931 an artel which made souvenirs including matryoshkas was established in Semionovo.
Blossom of Semionovo toy
Gradually a distinct matryoshka type of Semionovo was developed. It was more decorative and symbolic than the matryoshka from Sergiev Posad. Semionovo's tradition goes back to the traditions of ancient Russia.
The painters of Semionovo used aniline dyes; they left quite a lot of unpainted space and varnished dolls. First of all, light touches of the brush mark the outlines of the face, eyes, the lines of the lips and apply color to the cheeks. Then a skirt, an apron, a scarf on the matryoshka's head and hands are drawn.
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 lighter. It is easy to recognize a typical Semionovo shape of wooden form of matryoshka. It is slender and has a relatively thin top, which widens sharply into a thick bottom.
The matryoshka of Semionovo are famous for containing many pieces.
The biggest matryoshka contained 72 pieces; it was 1 m high and had a diameter. This unique doll was made in 1970 and was dedicated to birthday of Soviet communist leader Lenin.
The bigest matryoshka
It cost 3000 rubles (it worth saying that a popular Soviet car cost in that time 5,000 rubles. The doll was sent to exhibition in Japan.
In the 80-s artists from Semionovo developed new types of matryoshkas Artist Serov designed new matryoshka "The Father Frost and Snegurotchka". This matryoshka was so designed that children could learn to count: inside a big "mother" 10 small was hidden.
In this time the Chief Artist Sorokin has created a couple of dolls-case "Russian Lad" and "Russian Beauty".
They were in cosmic flight
This couple was taken in cosmic flight in 29 June 1982 by Russian astronauts and was gifted to international crew.
Now Semionovo matryoshka has not the best time. The complex economic situation in Russia mirrors at these crafts too: it's harder to buy raw materials, fuel and electricity became more expensive. In these condition it hard to create something new, people instead of wage in money get just ready goods: matryoshkas, wooden spoons, wooden tableware. It press people to leave a factory and to work separately at home. Maybe it is hard in the beginning but in such conditions can be born new ideas, types, goods - there are more to room for creative activity.
We sincerely hope that Semionovo matryoshka will blossom soon and will expose us new unusual things.
Polkhovsky Maidan located to the south-west of Nizhny Novgorod, is a motherland of another style of matryoshka. The river Polkhovka in old times was wide and big, it was surrounded by forests- that is why people choose this place to settle a new village. Now Polkhovka became a small stream meanwhile the village turned into a center of crafts.