Matryoshka Russian Nesting Dolls
The Matryoshka Russian nesting dolls are considered folk art because they express a cultural identity. In this case, Russian. These wooden dolls - a symbol of motherhood and family - come in a set of seven similarly painted wooden dolls, often resemble a young peasant woman with rosy cheeks dressed in a customary, colorful dress and traditional head scarf that, many say, denotes the coldness of Russian winters.
Matryoshka means “little matron” in Russian and the dolls are made of decreasing sizes so that they can fit one into the other. The idea is to represent how important the mother is the family. She is the one who ‘holds’ them all.
Russian wood carver and doll maker Vasily Petrovich Zvyozdochkin is credited with carving the first set of dolls in 1890. His collegue Sergey Malyutin (architect and painter) painted them. Both folk artists worked under the patronage of a wealthy businessman who presented them at 190o Exposition Universelle world fair in Paris where they earned a bronze medal and global fame.
Over time, as is the case with most folk art, the themes do change to reflect more contemporary themes. In this case that included dolls made to look like fairytale characters and well-known political leaders, such as Joseph Stalin and Mikhail Gorbachev.