Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Wonder of Russian Nesting Dolls - Presenting Enchanting Matreshka

I was introduced to the art form of the Russian Nesting Doll - "Matreshka" - when I made my first visit to Russia in the early 1990's. Since then, I have accumulated several interesting versions of the dolls that I have picked up in Kiev and in Moscow. I have several sets that show various members of the Boston Red Sox. One of my favorite sets of dolls is a set of 7 of my favorite Russian authors - Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Checkov, Pasternak, Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev.

I just added to my collection by acquiring a miniature set of 5 rhinos from the Enchanting Matreshka kiosk at Copley Place Mall in Boston. The kiosk is a miniature wonderland of Russian art in many forms - nesting dolls, lacquer boxes, amber jewelry, decorative eggs, icons and crosses. The largest rhino is the size of my thumb, and the smallest is about 1/4 the size of the nail on my little finger. The craftsmanship is astonishing. Each piece is hand-painted using a sable brush composed of a single hair from the tail of a squirrel, and painted by the artist using a jeweler's loupe.

In visiting the Enchanting Matreshka website, I learned a bit about the history of the art form:

Welcome to the fascinating world of Enchanting Matreshka, the importer and purveyor of fine traditional Russian arts and crafts. In many ways, it is a world that time forgot. Locked away behind the Soviet curtain of silence until Perestroika opened the country in 1993, most of our artists have spent their entire lives studying and practicing techniques that took centuries to develop. Handed down from generation to generation, and preserved through a rigid training system overseen by the government, these techniques are painstaking, time consuming and difficult to learn. As a result the work of those who have truly mastered their craft is superbly crafted and exquisitely rendered. It is also completely different from anything else the western world has experienced. Since so many of Russia 's artisans are working in small towns and villages outside the main cities, we make regular trips to these villages to procure new artwork. Our goal of course, is to introduce the world to the wonders of Russian art, and in so doing to provide the artists themselves with the means to continue their magnificent work.

The Russian family that operates the store has developed personal relationships with many of the top artists in Russia. They return often to purchase unique items that cannot be found elsewhere.

If you are in Boston, I encourage you to stop by the kiosk. If you live outside of Boston, you can shop at their on-line store.

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