Set of five Japanese nesting dolls and a set of six Russian babushka dolls. The pattern is worn on the Russian dolls, evidence of considerable use. The design on this set is somewhat impish quite unlike the design of modern babushka dolls.
Fitting the dolls inside each other required considerable skill on the part of the child, particularly in manipulating the smallest of the Japanese dolls. The child learned to distinguish the various sizes and gained manual dexterity by playing with these dolls.
A Matryoshka or Babushka nesting doll is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing sizes that all fit inside of each other, one by one. Each stacking doll splits in half at the mid section and opens to reveal another smaller doll nested within. The traditional Matryoshka doll is usually round in shape and decoratively painted to resemble a pretty young faced peasant woman dressed or bundled up in an extravagant sarafan costume, a loose fitting traditional Russian garment. The head of the stacking doll is usually also covered, perhaps to protect her from the cold weather characteristic of Russia's notoriously harsh, long winters. The painted designs can represent political history, motherhood, fertility, tell a story or fairy tale or honouring Mother Russia.