I found these two Japanese kokeshi nesting nodders at an antique store in New Glarus, WI. The town is known for its Swiss heritage and was quite nice. We would have stayed at the Landhaus hotel there had it not been for the huge wedding that had booked up the hotel. There was a roster up at the front desk listing the 3 shuttles that had been set up for the wedding guests. Wow--that is a BIG wedding.
Anyway, the two nesting dolls are probably from the late 40's-early 50's based on some ebay listings showing similar dolls. The inside of the tall boy seems to be missing one doll inside but I don't care. When I spotted them on a low shelf in the shop I broke into cold sweats thinking they might be way too expensive. But, I held them close when I found that they were only $4 and $3 respectively. Their faces are so delicately painted and I love the red polka-dotted bow in the girls hair.
I read in a book on Russian Matyroshka that the raw wood of the dolls is covered in a liquid starch in a first step to prevent the colors from bleeding up the grain of the wood. The several coats of varnish at the end are put on with bare hands--sticky! I will have to try that starch trick and see if it works. I have some small wood santas that I have had forever but the two that I painted were so frustrating. The paint wanted to travel into the other colors and they were just a mess.