Do You Know What Those Wooden Dolls Are Called?

Do You Know What Those Wooden Dolls Are Called?

(On Profiling Matryoshka Dolls)

I was in early elementary, in perhaps the late 1970s, when I first saw those fascinating dolls being featured on the children’s television show Sesame Street.

Since then I have never outgrown my affection for them. I even wanted to collect them, but they were so expensive and hard to find in my home country, the Philippines. I am referring to those sets of wooden figures which separate, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same kind inside, which has, in turn, another figure nesting inside of it, and so on. The number of nested figures is usually at least five, but can be much more, up to several dozens with sufficiently fine craftsmanship. The dolls are customarily peasant girls in traditional dresses. They have no hands nor feet, except those that are painted on their approximately cylindrical forms, the top half of each serves as the individual doll’s head and upper torso. The largest, outermost doll is traditionally a woman. The ensuing figures may be of either gender; with the smallest, innermost doll typically a baby.

Origin of the Dolls
The elaborately painted sets of wooden figures are originally known as matryoshka dolls. The word matryoshka literally means “little matron”–diminutive form of the Russian first name Matryona (similar to the naming pattern of Filipino names like Angela and Angelita or Angelina, Teresa and Teresita, or Karen and Karenina).

Although regarded as having originated in Russia, the concept of matryoshka dolls, many believe, came from China; and have since been adopted by other cultures. Moreover, the theme and design can now be almost anything–fairytale characters, animals, movie characters, musicians, celebrities, political leaders, etc.

Thus, the wooden figures are now more-appropriately referred to as nesting dolls or nested dolls. The First Known Matryoshka Dolls In 1890, a craftsman named Vasily Zvyozdochkin carved a set of eight dolls designed and afterwards painted by Sergey Malyutin, a painter in Moscow. The outermost doll was a peasant girl holding a rooster, six inner dolls were girls, the fifth doll a boy, and the innermost a baby. In 1900, the wife of the merchant Savva Mamontov, for whom the artwork was made, presented the dolls–which they called matryoshka dolls–at the World Exhibition in Paris, France, and the rest was history.

Sa Madaling Salita
Bagamat unang ginawa at nakilala sa Rusya ang matryoshka dolls, ito ay matatagpuan na rin sa ibang kultura.

Or, in Simple Words
Matryoshka dolls–better known now as nested or nesting dolls–originated in Russia, but they can now be found being made in other countries as well; and their theme or design is no longer confined to peasant characters.