“More Than They’re Stacked Up To Be” Stacking/ Nesting Dolls by Carol E.
Carol had a very large display with these charming and beautiful dolls spread out with their multiple little ones of various sizes. Carol’s Excel program was so informative and gave light to the rich and varied history of these dolls. She included an excellent video showing how the dolls are made. A Big thanks to Carol and other members who shared their dolls and stories.
Beginnings in China:
1000 A.D. Chinese Song Dynasty straw or lacquered stacking boxes were used for presents and for storing items. These boxes were both functional and decorative. Later on, they applied this concept to a set of dolls and the first nesting doll was born.
Next to Japan:
1500’s Daruma dolls are the oldest folk toy in Japan
1600’s Japanese Kohesi dolls for children and are hand made of wood with decorative painting.
1700’s Seven Lucky Gods stacking dolls taught beginning of Zen Buddhism
The Russian connection: The nesting dolls made their way to Russia in the early 1890s when Savva Mamontov discovered a set. Mamontov was a wealthy supporter of the arts and wanted to revive Russian folk art. One of his artists, Sergei Maliutin created the first Russian set with the help of Vassily Zviozdochkin. Their concept was to turn the nesting dolls into a symbol of Russia. They caught on in a big way and stacking dolls eventually became a trademark of Russian folk art. In 1900 Mamontov wife presented the first Matroyoshka (“mother”) Russian made nesting dolls at the World Exhibition in Paris. Soon after nesting dolls were being made throughout Russia and the surrounding regions like Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Ukraine.
Design themes: Fairy Tales, Fables, Animals, Holidays, Snow Maiden, Historical Figures, Geography, History, Art, Family & Ethnic Heritage.
How are they made? Material is a soft fine wood like Linden, Lime, Aspen, Balsa, Alder, and Birch.
The Process: Bark stripped – Cured 1 to 3 years – Cut into blocks – Bottom half turned on a lathe – Top half turned on a lathe – Chisels used for inside to hollow out – Treat wood with starch based primer – Paint designs – Apply Gouache or Tempera paints – Apply lacquer – Apply wax
Regional Designs of Russian Matroyoshka dolls:
Semenov – Red roses, yellow babushkas, birds, leaves, berries including counting dolls (large doll with many tiny dolls to teach math to children)
Kirov – Inlaid straw, carrot orange color hair, polka dots on scarf, large eyes, tiny demure smile
Sergiev Posad – Long apron, male can be included in family, jumper over blouse, always holding something, completely painted all over
Morda (Moravia) – Geometric designs, veils, much wood shows through
Brest Belarus – Natural faces, folded arms, fringe on babushkas, red dot lips, vests, pointed heads on gnomes
Today stacking dolls are produced all over the world. There are art dolls as well with very interesting shapes, painted designs and themes, including modern art, movie, book, sports and pop culture.
Photos and summary by Pat. D.