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A Puzzle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma!

by Joan Bramsch

Photographs by Lynne Payne,

showing some of her 60-set nesting doll collection

Matryushkas Dolls have been created by Russian craftspersons for hundreds of years, at least back to the mid 1700s. And yet, it is said a man named S. V. Malyvtin borrowed the idea of the “take apart” dolls from a Japanese toy maker, although the Japanese claim the first doll was created by a Russian monk on the island of Honoshu, Japan.

So even its inception is a mystery! The bright toy’s introduction to the world followed when a medal was awarded during the Paris World Exhibition in 1900.There is some controversy about the name “Matryushka.” Some linguists say the origin of the word goes back to an old-fashion name Matriona, common among peasantry. The first four letters of matryushka – “Matr” – has Latin roots, but also comes from the Russian word for Mother – a whole different meaning.

So the nesting dolls represent both the national motherland and bức tranh đồng quê bằng đồng actual motherhood and fertility; that’s why they are traditionally painted like women, round figured females with babies inside. On the other hand, the idea of nesting dolls may have come from the legendary idol called Jumala from the Ural Mountains. It was made of gold, and tranh đồng quê bằng đồng was hollowed out to hold three smaller idol figures.The present day nesting doll concept continues to be popular in Russia after years of being the national toy and a favorite tourist souvenir.

Designs constantly change and evolve to relfect the times. For example, during the Victorian era, to overcome the Modernism art form present at the turn of the Century, the crafts people painted the dolls in pastel peasant colors and added country designs like a rooster or a loaf of bread in artful illustrations over the costume.The first fine-art Russian matryushkas were made in the prestigious art center within the walls of the Sergei-Posan monastery, famous since the 14th Century for its art, in Zagorsk, 50 miles north of Moscow.

These nesting dolls are highly professional and original, created in good taste and a variety of themes. The techniques used are also diverse – from dab painting to other artistic devices like icon painting. The gilded domed monastery complex is still a feast for the visitor’s eyes. Within these grand buildings there exists a toy museum, opened in 1918 and filled with evolutionary examples of the nesting doll, from peasant women to noble ladies and hussars. Nearby, vendors in an open market sell a wide variety of matryushkas to tourists and natives alike.

Merchants offer the traditional dolls, bức tranh đồng quê bằng gỗ dong que bang go as well as, ones with exquisite icon paintings on the sides. They even sell Disney and O.J. Simpson designs!Today the designs continue to be individualistic with each artist’s imagination, adding historical, ethnic, fairy tale or animal patterns to the dolls’ decoration.

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