Sep 7, 2011

Russian Barbie

This postcard was sent by Dinara from Russia via postcrossing [RU-335996]. It shows Matryoshka dolls, or "Russian Barbies". I also own a set of babushka dolls, but I didn't know their history!

A matryoshka doll, or babushka doll is a Russian nesting doll (Russian: Матрёшка) which is a set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on. The number of nested figures is traditionally at least five, but can be much more, up to several dozen with sufficiently fine craftsmanship. Modern dolls often yield an odd number of figures but this is not an absolute rule; the original Zvyozdochkin set, for instance, had an even number. The form is approximately cylindrical, with a rounded top for the head, tapering toward the bottom, with little or no protruding features; the dolls have no hands (except those that are painted). Traditionally the outer layer is a woman, dressed in a sarafan. The figures inside may be of either gender; the smallest, innermost doll is typically a baby lathed from a single small piece of wood (and hence non-opening). The artistry is in the painting of each doll, which can be extremely elaborate.
The word "matryoshka" (матрёшка), literally "little matron", is a diminutive form of the Russian female first name "Matryona" (Матрёна).
The first Russian nested doll set was carved in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin from a design by Sergey Malyutin, who was a folk crafts painter in the Abramtsevo estate of the Russian industrialist and patron of arts Savva Mamontov. The doll set was painted by Malyutin. Malyutin's doll set consisted of eight dolls—the outermost was a girl holding a rooster wearing a traditional dress. The inner dolls were girls and a boy, and the innermost a baby.
Zvyozdochkin and Malyutin were inspired by a doll from Honshu, the main island of Japan. Sources differ in descriptions of the doll, describing it as either a round, hollow daruma doll or a fukuruma nesting doll portraying portly bald old Buddhist monk.
In 1900, Savva Mamontov's wife presented the dolls at the World Exhibition in Paris, and the toy earned a bronze medal. Soon after, matryoshka dolls were being made in several places in Russia. [wikipedia]

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