Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Matryoshka or Russian Nesting Dolls

So you'll remember my lumbering, cyclops muse took off on me to check out Matryoshka dolls? We finally met up and got a post together and wow! Take one guess what Matryoshka dolls are related to? Knowing me? The magical world of fractals! Remember why you should care about fractals? Because they, like Matryoshka dolls are formed from a pattern that continues to repeat itself in smaller and smaller ratios. Don't MAKE me start on the Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio.





One of these dolls is a guy with a mustache right? A guy holding a bird cage?

We all know what nesting dolls are and we've all seen traditional sets. My sister brought a set back for me from the Czech Republic a few years ago and I adore them.

The word "matryoshka", literally "little matron", is a diminutive form of the Russian female first name "Matryona". Sets are still hand carved and painted and that's what makes them unique and charming. Traditional sets usually start out with a matronly figure. Inside dolls can alternate between men and women and often the sets have a theme like Russian peasant women in traditional costume, or fairy tale characters. 

Many modern versions have appeared using Russian leaders as a pattern or musicians or virtually anything you can think of.

Sets usually stand about six to eight inches tall and have about five to seven dolls with the smallest doll carved from one piece of wood and is usually in the form of a baby. I searched for the largest set - with the largest number of nesting dolls - in the world and found a set on this web site where they make the dolls and leave them unfinished for you to paint as you wish:

More after the jump

There are seventy dolls in this set, all carved from one piece of wood.
The largest doll is over 27" tall

To get this many dolls from one piece of wood, they must be carved paper thin.


The largest doll here stands 12", the smallest is the size of a grain of rice
There are 30 dolls in this set 

This is the first set of dolls created in 1890



The first Russian nested doll set was carved in 1890 and consisted of eight dolls—the outermost was a girl in a traditional dress holding a rooster. The inner dolls were girls and a boy, and the innermost a baby. 




From Wiki:

Matryoshkas are also used metaphorically, as a design paradigm, known as the "matryoshka principle" or "nested doll principle". It denotes a recognizable relationship of "object-within-similar-object" that appears in the design of many other natural and man-made objects... 
...The onion metaphor is of similar character. If the outer layer is peeled off an onion, a similar onion exists within. This structure is employed by designers in applications such as the layering of clothes or the design of tables, where a smaller table sits within a larger table and a yet smaller one within that. [psst: fractals]


Zombie family








Apparently the fifth Beatle was a hooded executioner or, Yoko
[edit: I found the following dolls and had to update this post to include them. Anatomically correct nesting dolls! They're kinda cool. Made by Jason Levesque]




Wiki says that since the 1990s matryoshka dolls have been facing a downward spiral in production. The production of matryoshkas is done by highly skilled craftsmen who pass down their skills generation to generation. As factories shut down there is a fear that there will be no one left to learn the skills, so the knowledge could be lost.  Sad.

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