ROMANOV FAMILY: RUSSIAN TRADITIONAL DOLLS AT THE ALEXANDER PALACE
Tsarskoe Selo Museum had recently acquired at a Paris auction these eight rare dolls wearing Russian and Ukrainian traditional costumes. The dolls were created in 1896 to commemorate the official visit of the young ruling Romanov family to France.
Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna tried to raise all their children with a sense of respect for Russian history and traditions of its people. Hence they had a lot of toys that were made in the folk tradition, or depicting such.
At Sergeev Possad, the center of Russian toy making, the tradition of making ethnographic dolls continued through the early 20th century. The dolls were always dressed in colourful national outfits which carefully reflected those worn by the various ethnic groups living in Russia, down to specific types of cloth and design details.
Among the toys that belonged to the young grand duchesses, which were kept in the children’s rooms of the Alexander Palace, were many of these ethnographic dolls. Along with reading traditional Russian fairy tales, myths and legends, playing with these dolls was one of the ways to teach the little grand duchesses about daily life of their people.
But the dolls acquired in Paris had very different origins from those made at Sergeev Possad. These were souvenirs, which came about to honour the new Russo-French alliance. Among them was even a doll called “Poupee Olga” (Olga babydoll).
From the toy collection of the Alexander Palace dolls, a few dolls in ancient Russian costumes survived, among them the “Ukrainian girl”, the “Ossetian girl”, the “Armenian girl”, and the “Tatar girl”; they are currently kept at the toy museum in Sergeev Possad.
The dolls in traditional Russian costumes acquired at the Paris auction are a great addition to the Tsarskoe Selo Museum collection. They will be shown at the Alexander Palace after its restoration, as well as at temporary exhibits dedicated to the life of the last imperial children.