Ecclesiastical Dolls

The online collections of great museums are a treasure, and the Victoria & Albert is no exception. Dig around in there long enough and weird things always pop out, such as …

Ecclesiastical dolls!

The V&A has a set of fifty dolls dressed in the habits of the orders prominent in France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

The dolls have wax heads, hands, and feet with hemp bodies, and clothing of wool and linen. They were probably made in France in the early 19th century, though some represent orders from outside of France. Some represent orders still thriving, while others have died out. They’re a fascinating glimpse of the distinct habits that were once a common sight in the region. They’re also verrry creepy, with their dead little doll eyes and stiff little fingers.

Most are no longer on display by the museum.

Annonciade (Sister of the Annunciation). The habit consists of a dark brown serge tunic, over which is worn a red scapular and knotted girdle. It is completed with a white wimple and black veil. The Soeurs de l’Annonciade are a contemplative order founded in 1501 by Joan of France, Duchess of Berry.
Capuchin friar. The Capuchins, or the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, are a Franciscan order founded in 1520 by Matteo da Bascio (1495-1552) who wanted a return to the extreme simplicity, poverty and austerity of the Rule of St. Francis. They wear a very simple brown tunic with a knotted waist cord. The short brown hooded cape and the beard were adopted from Camaldoese monks, who gave refuge to the original Capuchins when they were persecuted by Franciscan superiors.
Canoness of the Holy Sepulchre (also known as a Sepulchrine). The Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre are said to have been founded in 1114 and were confirmed in 1143 by Pope Celestine III. The Canons of the order are now extinct, but Sepulchrine convents still exist in Europe. The Sepulchrines wore a black tunic, over which was worn a sleeveless white surplice with a red Cross of Lorraine embroidered over the breast. The veil is black, and the wimple and undersleeves are white.


The Pope in choir dress. It consists of a white tunic over which is worn an embroidered linen and lace cotta and a red cape known as the ‘papal mozetta’ trimmed with white fringe. This represents the fur trimming on the full-size winter mozetta. A stole trimmed with braid is worn over the mozetta along with a gold pectoral cross on a knotted cord. The figure carries a Papal Cross, a staff topped with a crucifix, and wears a three-tiered crown known as the Triregnum or Papal Tiara.

All captions and photos courtesy of the Victoria & Albert. See the rest here.