Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Day 197-Russian Dolls From India

Matryoshka, babushka or Russian nesting dolls.

By whatever names you call them, I just love them and it was a lovelorn affair beginning from way back when. I say lovelorn because for the longest time, I could never find these dolls in this part of the world. Imagine my delight when I saw this one in Little India 5 Saturdays ago with mum. Mummy bargained the price down for me and although it is missing the smallest, I bought it with glee. I mean, a Russian doll from India with the face of a fakir (holy man) , how can I resist?

That same day, we walked into the pricier Gokulam where I had bought a set of handcrafted Ganeshas last August and sure enough I found my dream pair, apparently from Bombay. Twice the price of the 1st doll, we walked out of the store but only after I threw like a hundred "longing" back glances. 

1st set of Matryoshka dolls circa 1892 now residing at Sergiev Posad Museum of Toys, Russia
It is to be more than  5 weeks later before I am reunited with my love again. In the meantime, do you know that the 1st set of  Matryoshka dolls were created only 110 years ago in 1892 through the joint effort of a toymaker, Vasily Zvyozdochkin  from a design by Sergey Malyutin, a folk artist?

In Russia, the word "matryoska" is associated with fertility and motherhood. The  toymaker and the folk artist had hit upon the idea of representing a peasant family with a wooden doll that opens up, revealing a series of nested figures inside. And so they made the first doll a girl and named her Matryoshka.

Fukuruma dolls that inspired rhe 1st matryoshka dolls
Further reading however reveals that earlier nesting dolls could be Japanese although legend has it that the very 1st set of these fukuruma dolls were actually made by an unknown Russian monk.

In 1970, a 1 metre high doll was built as a memorial  to Lenin's birthday. It has 72 pieces and was considered the largest matryoshka doll then.

Picture from -A toruist (see mini on right) visiting the Nesting Doll Park in Manzouli Sculpture Park, Inner Momgolia, China

In 2006, the largest matryoshka dolls were built in the forms of buildings at a park in  Manzhouli, Hulunbuir League of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China . The biggest building is almost 100 feet high and houses a restaurant and a gallery. You can see some incredible pictures here

Back and front pics
And simce we are on this topic, may I also show you my Russian Doll pouches? I bought them 3 weeks ago while out shopping for the 1st time with Xander. I actually lost my mum and Xander for a while because I was so engrossed choosing these bags in a shop while they were behind in the mall!

A cuter, smaller pouch which I use to store beading tools while the bigger one holds my craft knives and bigger clay tools. These bags were handmade by our local artisans with fabric imported from Japan. I have checked and I think these fabrics can be found on etsy.

Of course, I have the mini versions too. From the Mustapha of bead shop, my Chinatown treasure trove, these are earring findings.

As you can see, the scale is more 1:6 than 1:12 unless maybe I measure it against Lenin's or the Mongolian sculptures. The earring finding is 0.9". I will repaint it of course and then decide if I should wear them in my ears or have them on a shelf.

Until then, I shall contend with my life size Russian dolls from India. As you can see, I have brought the other 2 home , just five hours ago, today.


GB said...

Sans, I remember playing with wooden nesting dolls from punjab as a kid. They have special lacquer-finish toys, hand carved from the lighter woods. I had many such toys including furniture sets and cooking utensils that my mom used to bring back for me from her trips to her ancestral home. I love your Mr and Mrs Iyer or Mr and Mrs Wagle dolls. (I just named them).

The Old Maid said...

They were very popular in Poland too some time ago - when Poland was a communist country ;) My Granny had 3 very very very small dolls in her room for a very long time, must ask my Aunt what happened to them ;)

Sans! said...

Hey Gagan, :) you know I wasn't sure the shopkeeper knew what she was talking about when she told me, rather offhandedly, that the dolls were from Bombay. I asked another lady who confessed quite honestly that she did not know where Mr & Mrs Iyer (I LIKE!) were made :). Both dolls, with their similar patina looked like they were made in the same place.

I will really like to find out where they are from. These nesting dolls (made this way) must be a new creation for the export market? I have never seen them until recently. I am so happy matryoshka dolls are the "in thing" at the moment.

Sans! said...

Ewa, be sure to post pics about them if you can find these dolls. OMG, they must be museum worthy now! In 100 years, mine will be too :):) *happy dance hehe.

Sound Horn Please said...

I came here blog hopping! And what a wonderful blog! I love the miniature homes and your recent post on the dolls. The indian fakir ones are a true find! I am now following you :)

rosanna said...

I must find my own. They were presented to me about 40 years ago (ouch the number hurts!!!) by my uncle who went to Leningrad, now St Peterburg. I was 3 and did not care much about them but I played with them later. Must really dig them out of the garage..... Hugs Rosanna

Glenda said...

I've always been fascinated by nesting dolls! I saw lots at the Russian Orthodox monastery at Valomo in Finland - they have a shop - but the prices were sky high, and I had to go away empty handed :(
I have a plain wood set to paint up one day.
Thanks for the memories, Sans!! I love the earrings, too.

cockerina said...

Sans hello! I also possess tiny Matryoshka original that my brother took me to Russia. they are painted wood, and I kept in a drawer somewhere among the things in my dollhouse. as soon as I find them, I show in my blog ... the incredible thing is that they are really miniature, the largest, which contains all others, is about 3 cm high, but I have to check! I did not wait to show you! now I think I have a little treasure ...
thanks for the beautiful pictures, I have never seen Indian Matrioska .. ah ah!
kisses, Caterina

Katie said...

There all so beautiful! And I love the little purses:) I had a set of these dolls as a kid, and if I'm lucky they are still around here. Brings back lots of good memories, which is why I had bought that little one from the show:)

Thanks for sharing:)

Daydreamer said...

Sans! What wonderful finds to have ones dressed as people of India would dress! We, too had a set when I was little, but I don't have it anymore. It was just average size, maybe five inches tall for the largest one and dressed in Russian or Eastern European traditional costume. I don't remember if they were actually from Russia, my Aunt traveleld there frequently and might have brought them home for us. Your tiny earrings are perfect!

Sans! said...

Divya!!! :):) I have just been to your blog and it is super awesome! I love anything design with a focus on India :) so it is right up my alley :).

Thank you for visiting and I hope to see you here often cos I will be at yours every time there's a new post :).

Sans! said...

Rosanna, that garage of yours is definitely like an Ali Baba cave! Set a date and I will be there to rummage with you. We may never leave for a few months :):). These dolls are not really fun to play with, don't you think? More for display :).

These dolls made me realise that I have never stop loving toys. Funny thing is I don't remember spending much time playing with dolls, unlike SuZ who has loads of them. I thought I grew out of them when I hit 13. :):) But apparently I am wrong. :)

Ooook, time to head for work .

Marie Antionette said...

Dearest Sans,
thank you so much for your encouragement.You are a doll like the dolls you also do.I too always loved these type of dolls and I so love the pouch. I had a wonderful set of Russian nesting dolls. Don't know where they are now.Like so many of my dolls, they got left behind in a move that we were not prepared for.I did recover my Tiny Tears from the eary 50's. Glad you liked my witch,She is something...LOL. She was fun to make.
You take care love,
XXOO Marie Antionette

Elena said...

Hello Sans,

For many days I have been reading your posts following the development of Maharadja's Palace - it's really enjiying but can't resist to write to you today, when you are talking about russian dolls - what does make you to do that ? It's so interesting how people abroad imagine Russians and Russian things. As I can see you know a lot about Matreshka even her history origin ... YOur Indian matreshka type dolls are wonderful and very differ from the Russians ones.


Sans! said...

Glenda, I don't know how I am going to resist buying a beautifully made nesting doll if I ever see one. I tried with the Indian pair (I can buy a nice stool made in India for that price (2 of them I mean)!! but finally succumbed. Really doesn't help that there have been postings of dolls in some of my fav decor blogs because of the upcoming Navaratri festival, the festival of dolls in India this Friday :).

Russian Dolls are the rage here now and I see badly made ones spawning in Chinatown at the same price. Those I can walk away from easily :).

I have wanted to make my own mini nesting dolls at one point and found some videos online showing how artisans paint these dolls. If you google "make your own matryoshka dolls" you will probably find these videos :).

Kim said...

I always learn when I visit you Sans- I love it! I remember my Grandma had a set of these- wonder where they went to? I love your new bags, but love Mr and Mrs Iyer even more :)

Ascension said...

Que maravillosas muñecas, yo tenia una coleccion cuando era pequeña, pero donde estara?......
Igual me animo e intento hacer unas...mejor sera comprarlas jejeje
besitos ascension

Dark Squirrel Victoria said...

What beautiful dolls Sans! I always wanted nesting dolls when I was a little girl. The bags are really cool, I love the designs.

Victoria ♥

Sans! said...

Katie :) , your post IS one of those that made me go back to the shop to get Mr & Mrs Iyer :):). I had thought you hit the jackpot with the mini version :). Quick go find the ones you had as a kid. These vintage versions are even more interesting ? I LOVE OLD TOYS! :).

Sans! said...

Ahhhhhhh Caterina ! I am committing a deadly sin here . I am totally ENVIOUS of you. You must must must show it on your blog!

And the other thing you must must must do is to kiss that brother of yours, call him and tell him you adooooore him, What a sweetie to be thinking of you when he is in Russia :). That's one place I want to go.

The other day, I was watching a documentary on St Petersburg. Ok, DON'T kill me , both you and Rosanna, but ON TV, St Petersburg look even more amazing than Venice! Oops, I can feel a few whacks coming my way :):). LOL.But maybe on TV only :).

Snowfern said...

yet another delightful post! yes i remember discussing the russian dolls with you, when i was a kid my dad brought back a set from russia, but we moved around so much i don't know where it is now :( i remember how bro and i would leave secret messages in it for each other! along the lines of "you are smelly" or summat though...:P

i still love matryoska dolls..they're coming back with a vengeance! great time to start collecting matryoshka related items again!! :X your 'indian matryoska' dolls are a HOOT!!!! XD

Piikko said...

Sans, very beautiful dolls!
We have russian dolls at home, when my kids were small they were playing with them.
Hugs, piikko
-It will be snowing soon here in Finland!!!

Sans! said...

I can't believe how everyone here has a matryoshka doll except me :).

Betsy, my dad just walked into my room and looked at the 3 dolls and said "Your house has too many things!!!" I do. My sis just came back from India and bought me 6 more dolls!!!! But they are so wonderfulllllllllll! :):)

I have been so busy this weekend that I did not do anything about the mini books! sighhh but I found something else to put into my Betsy box :).

Sans! said...

Marie dear , I always love it when you post your new dolls. They are such a delight! I really believe they are collectables :). So keep making them.

I think you posted about the old dolls you found and those a friend left you. You have a remarkable ability of saving and repairing old dolls , my dear :).

Hang in there, ok?

Sans! said...

Elena, your comment really pleased me so much! A Russian friend sharing with me her thoughts! Just precious :):) Thank you for taking the time to write me, Elena, you don't know how much that mean to me :).

I fell in love with the last 2 dolls because of the bottom. It is not the usual nesting dolls shape which is like a peanut but both had a little curved in base (don't know how to say that). I think it makes the dolls even more fascinating that the artisan managed to fit the other doll in with this kind of base :).

You know the pictures I posted the dolls against? They are from a really really fascinating collection of posters (which I had in a book form but poster size) called The Posters of Glasnost and Perestroika. These posters are just so amazing! I have had the book for almost 20 years now! There are so many things about Russia that I am so absolutely fascinated with :). I will one day like to see St Petersburg!

Thank you again for your interest in my blog.

Sans! said...

KIM!!!!! MR & Mrs Iyer want to say hi to YOUR doll :). What's her name? :) You are a budding dollmaker destined to be great :). Go dig out your nanny's dolls :):) and we can compare :) tee hee

Sans! said...

Ascensión, me han contado, hay 7 amigos aquí que no saben dónde están sus muñecos de anidación de edad son! Usted es uno de ellos:) jejejeje

Ok, yo apruebo que comprar otros nuevos!

Sans! said...

You and me both , Victoria :) about wanting a nesting doll since we were young, Except my young was after I hit 20+++ :)

Sans! said...

Cindy :):) that's such a funny story . Things we do as kids!

Your smelly story reminded me of the times when SuZ and I would "compose" songs about how smelly the other is. It was a mix of English, Mandarin but mostly Hokkien song, almost tuneless but with the same refrain that went like " long long ago, there was a girl named ________(between me and SuZ depending on who's singing), she never ___ (eg washed her hair and is very scary) " but we always burst out laughing after we got to this point and never went beyond the 1st line. Sometimes, to stop the other from singing, one of us would dig out this movie magazine (mum kept 2 in her bedroom) with the picture of a ghost (scary movie review) and threw it at the singer. Invariably we would all scream with fear after that and run out of the room ! LOL!

If you think the Iyers are hooty, wait till you see what my sis got me :)

Sans! said...

PIIKOOOO! SNOWING!!! OMG I was just n Europe when it was snowing , has it been that long? *shakes head!

cockerina said...

ah ah ah! Sans! you're too nice and fun!
My brother was in Russia in his honeymoon with his wife, seven years ago ... he thought of me, but my doll's house was not finished yet ... yes, he really is a treasure!!
damn, I still do not find the matryoshka, maybe tomorrow morning .. I start to worry! but I am sure to find somewhere, I have kept so well that I can not remember where it is! damn!
thanks for your comment on my blog, you are a woman very sweet and lovable, even if you prefer to St. Petersburg to Venice!! rascal!
Good Sunday!

Sans! said...

:) Caterina :):) ! I will come a knocking ever so often to see if Ms Mini Matryoshka is found yet :).

It is hard not to love Venice. Seriously, I went with loads of scepticism. After all, I wasn't really taken in with the Europe I have seen before my trip this year. But Italy changed my mind. I have told Rosanna that as well :). I now want to visit at least once in 2 years or 3 years. :)

Today, our local newspaper had an article on the missing girl. Apparently, the news that she was found and that her uncle might have murdered her was told to her mum in a reality show? Apparently, many Italians complained about the "insensitive" way it was handled .

Katie said...

Oh Susan... You gotta google 'nesting dolls'.... LMAO! I just saw the presidents.... and even KISS dolls, lol.... Too funny! :)

Sans! said...

Hahahahahaha! Thanks Katie!! President Obama's real cute :):) I love those where the dolls are different :)

Liberty Biberty said...

I'm at my brothers for the weekend babysitting my nephew and two nieces, Liberty and the girls are all in agreement that the bag and pouch are the cutest things ever!!
I think every little girl loves Russian dolls!

Sans! said...

Mercedes, with your skill at the Singer (or whatever sewing machine you use) you probably can churn these pouches out in no time. You can buy the cloth scraps for very little on etsy.

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