The Matryoshka is undoubtedly the most popular representation of Russian handicrafts. However, there are other examples of traditional Russian toys made from wood or clay that form part of the Anatoly Panin collection, not so well-known but very unusual, which you can get to know through this selection of photos. You can visit the exhibition from February 1 to March 1, 2013 on the access ramp that goes up to the Philosophy and Literature Library.
The main materials that have traditionally been used to make toys in Russia are wood, especially lime, and clay. The centres best known for Russian folk toys made of clay are the villages Dymkovo, on the river Vyatka; the ancient city of Kargopol, located in northern Russia in the Arkhangelsk province, and the village of Filiminovo in the province of Tula, which is south of Moscow. This city is well known for its production of samovars, the typical Russian teapot, images of which can also be seen in this small photo exhibition. The wooden toys carved from lime, alder or aspen originated in the village of Bogorodskoe near Sergiev Posad in the Moscow region, an important religious and spiritual centre of Russia, which is also famous for its icon workshops.
The figurines of both animals and people have many different patterns and shapes, and the colouring of the typical toys made by Russian craftsmen is living and vibrant. Whole families have often been dedicated to turning and making these typical toys that go back to the times of traditional fairy tales and local legends. Everyday scenes of daily life are represented with great psychology and are often seasoned with subtle humour, alluding to the festive atmosphere of the Russian villages and towns. Some ceramic pieces are practical and this is where their origin and popularity comes from. On one hand, there are clay whistles that have been widely used not only in everyday life, but also in traditional whistling festivals. On the other hand, there are all kinds of pots and containers. The town of Gzhel is probably the best known centre for these in the West. It is close to Moscow and is famous for making all kinds of porcelain that is easily recognized due to a white surface painted with blue floral decorations, which have leaves, stems and flowers of daisies, bluebells, roses, tulips and cornflowers that combine perfectly with the shape and design of the article itself.
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