Origin of Russian dolls

This winter, the cold and the night that falls so early made me want warmth and color. My little multicolored dolls were born from this desire.

Inspired by traditional Russian nesting dolls, they bring a touch of light to the sad days of the cold season. But do you know the story of these Russian dolls?

The Russian Doll, is perhaps the best known symbol of Russia in the world. We also sometimes speak of a nesting doll, in reference to the puppet of the Mother Gigogne, which represents a tall and strong woman surrounded by children. In Russia, the Russian Doll is believed to symbolize the traditional values of Russian society: respect for the elderly, extended family unity, fertility and abundance, and the search for truth and meaning. In fact, the idea that truth is hidden in many layers of meaning is a recurring motif in Russian folk tales. In one such tale, a character named Ivan searches for a needle representing the death of an evil character. The needle is in an egg, the egg is in a duck, the duck is in a hare, the hare is in a box, and the box is buried under an oak tree. Thus, the Russian Doll, with its many layers hidden within the larger doll, is a perfect Russian symbol for Russian popular culture.

However, this popular toy has its origins in China. Created for storage and decorative purposes, the Chinese invented the nesting of wooden boxes inside each other in the year 1000. The concept consisted of a large wooden box which, when opened, contained a box wooden box almost identical, but smaller, and inside this smaller box, another still smaller box, and so on. This concept then evolved from nesting boxes to nesting dolls, serving as the basis for the world’s first nesting dolls.

This approach quickly migrated to Japan, where the idea was applied to create the wooden dolls of their own deities. The Shichi-Fukujin or seven lucky gods – believed to bring good luck in Japanese mythology – were among the first to have wooden nesting dolls made in their image. The Japanese god of happiness and longevity, Fukurokuju, has the form of a wooden doll that can be taken apart and inside which are the six other gods.

However, the concept of nested objects was already present in Russia at the end of the 19th century, for Easter eggs: we can notably cite Fabergé’s first egg, dating from 1885, which contained a yolk, containing a hen, containing turn a ruby pendant and a miniature replica of the imperial crown.

Anyway, during a trip to Japan, the little nested doll caught the attention of a young woman, who brought her back to her country. This person is Elizaveta Mamontova. wife of the Russian patron Savva Mamontov. The “father” of matryoshka dolls is Sergei Maliutin, a popular craftsman working on the Abramtsevo estate belonging to the industrialist Savva Mamontov, where he would have seen the small Japanese dolls from which he was inspired.

Yet, including in Russia, matryoshka dolls are often mistakenly thought to be inherited from hundreds of years of Russian woodturning tradition. This doll, which quickly became very popular in Russia, immediately received a typical peasant first name, Matriona, whose diminutive is Matriochka. As early as 1900, this toy caused a sensation at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where it won a bronze medal.

Later, The Space Conquest generates a whole host of cosmonaut dolls with helmets and diving suits, fitted into a rocket…

After the collapse of the USSR and the arrival of liberalism, matryoshka figures caricatures of politicians in place appeared. And today you can find dolls representing Lenin, Vladimir Putin or Barack Obama in souvenir shops in Moscow.

For some, the matryoshka has a more sacred dimension. Each of these seven figurines embodies a layer of subtle bodies and auras invisible to the naked eye.

It is the description of the body which superimposes seven thicknesses of life from the most trivial to the most ethereal. The challenge of each person is to reach the most subtle layer during his existence. There are seven shells:

  1. Red represents the physical body. It is the color of blood and of life, therefore of vital energy. Its vibrations are insufficient to elevate oneself spiritually. If it infuses the force, in case of loss of energy of the Earth, the physical body weakens;
  2. Orange symbolizes fertility;
  3. Yellow corresponds to health and stability. It is also the color of the will;
  4. Green helps to acquire mental strength and develops intuition. It is also the center of love;
  5. The color purple enhances expression and communication with openness to others;
  6. Blue is the color of higher abilities. It corresponds to creativity and understanding of the laws that govern the universe;
  7. Purple corresponds to the ultimate stage. It distributes energies of all types in the body.

This symbolism is less marked today, but it remains the legacy of an ancient tradition from Asia. That said, Japanese, Chinese or Russian, these colorful dolls have not ceased to amaze young and old. And they continue to inspire me to offer you cute little brooches to chew on! 🙂

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