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Russian Nesting Dolls - Matryoshka

Matryoshka dolls also known as Babushka dolls, stacking dolls, nesting dolls, Russian tea dolls, or Russian dolls) are a set of hand painted wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another.

Authentic Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka)

The Russian American Company in Sitka Alaska has perhaps the widest selection of authentic Russian matryoshka dolls offered anywhere in the US. Commonly called Russian nesting dolls, these delightful hand-crafted doll sets are "stacking", mostly hand-painted wooden dolls where each doll fits inside the next largest doll, creating a series, sometimes up to 50 pieces!

They are sometimes (erroneously) called Babushka dolls in the US, perhaps because Babushka means grandmother in Russian, and many sets have a female "Babushka" painted on the largest doll, followed by decreasingly smaller "family" members represented in these multiple doll sets. Also, the colorful shawls that Russian Babushkas love to wear are often painted and prominent on authentic Russian nesting dolls. At any rate, what was traditionally a children's counting toy or puzzle, then became a kitsch Russian factory made souvenir in the USSR times, but has now been elevated to an art form by myriad talented individual and decorative artists in Russia.

Russian Nesting Dolls History

The traditional Russian nesting doll appeared in Russia in the late 1800's, perhaps coming from older examples in China or Japan. Matryoshka doll history is somewhat clouded, but the meaning of the word matryoshka comes from Russian female first name Matryona, literally "little matron". By the mid-1900's, Matryoshka dolls were ubiquitous in the Soviet Union, as nearly every family had these stacking doll sets, factory-made especially for children as many depicted themes of common Russian fairy tales. Also, they could be used as a counting toy; or a puzzle to be taken apart and put together by children, offering hours of play and enjoyment. 

Later in the 20th century, Russian Matryoshka dolls became an art form in itself; each doll a canvas for all kinds of individual art. Surely, the fairy-tale themed nesting dolls remain immensely popular, but sets can also be exquisitely painted landscapes, simple peasant scenes, animals, or even portraits or stunning reproductions of Russian religious architecture. Many are large and intricately painted in a color theme or style perfect for interior decoration; others are collectible works of art to be on display in a den or study, with others more simple and meant for fun or themed for Christmas or other holiday use.

Wooden Russian Nesting Dolls

The wooden Matryoshka doll blanks, often called underwear by the artists, are made from European Linden wood, kiln-dried and turned on a lathe by individual woodworking shops, mostly located in central Russian in and around Moscow. These small shops then become suppliers to individual artists and painters who create the painted finished products. They can be painted with acrylic, watercolors, or even oil paint, with many artists fixing the paint by applying several layers of lacquer for a high-gloss and permanent finish. It is important to know that a large amount of the least expensive dolls are still created in a factory setting, stenciled or machine painted, and turned out by the thousands. These factory dolls (such as created by the Semenov factory) although inexpensive and still popular as Russian souvenirs, have now, since the fall of the old Soviet Union, been supplemented by what we mostly represent at the Russian American Company, matryoshka dolls that are hand-painted, unique, and one-of-a-kind works of art!

Many of the matryoshka artists that we represent are hobbyists that create only a few sets per year; and many are also commercial artists that may also paint on canvas or other decorative art mediums. We have traveled to the centers of the Russian nesting doll art form, villages like Abramtsevo and Sergiev Posad (formally Zagorsk) where the art form is being taught in art schools and groups of matryoshka doll artists have formed marketing co-ops or become famous presenting their unique styles and themes of painting these exquisite doll sets. Selecting the finest artists and most unique creations, we have developed personal relationships over the years to become exclusive buyers for many individual artists, so many nesting doll sets we offer will be only found in our store or on our website. Our history of direct importing authentic Russian matryoshka dolls goes back over 30 years, to assure only the most unique and widest selection offered anywhere in America.

Nesting Doll Value

Considering a Russian nesting dolls value, consider that each doll is a unique, one-of-a-kind authentic Russian nesting doll set represents an original painting, and the miniaturization and detail on some of the sets is beyond amazing, it is easy to see why an original unique set can command many hundreds of dollars, and be quite valuable as a work of art.  Like any fine art form, the price and value of any doll reflects not just the size or number of pieces, but also the detail, uniqueness, and time it has taken to create - from the procurement of the best wooden blank, which is then hand-sanded and prepared for painting by each artist, to then perhaps many weeks of painstaking painting each set. We have sourced and sold many stacking doll sets from 20 to even 50 nesting pieces; which is not only a tribute to the art work and the artist, but also to the woodworkers who could fashion such intricately fitting blanks. Our stacking doll sets are sold from 3 to 50 pieces, in all styles, from the simple to the finest quality, and can be valued from under $10 to more than $3,000 per set! 

Whether it is selecting a traditional Semenov Russian souvenir nesting doll, a low-priced but hand-painted Babushka family stacking  doll set, or a uniquely painted set depicting famous Russian fairy tales such as the Frog Princess - or even up to a 25 piece one-of-a-kind matryoshka doll set that is truly a piece of fine art - we offer something for any budget and taste. Please check out our over 500 in stock authentic matryoshka doll sets, constantly changing, offered by the Russian American Company at the best prices and finest quality for over 40 years in our store and on our website.