This figure is one of a set of 50 dressed to represent the outfits worn by Catholic religious orders. They are made of tow (hemp) with wax heads, hands and feet. They were probably made in France, as they are labelled in French, but some of the orders represented were only active in Germany and the Netherlands.
This figure represents an Alexian nun. The Alexians were founded as a male order in the fourteenth century, devoting their lives to care for the sick. Although recognised in 1469 as a religious order by Louis de Bourbon, Prince-Bishop of Liège (1438-92), the Alexians were not formally confirmed until 1870. In the fifteenth century, nuns began to be affiliated to the Alexian Brotherhood, also dedicating their lives to care for the sick. The Alexian order founded many hospitals, and remains strong today. The Alexian nuns, who are also known as Cellitines, wear a simple black tunic, scapular, and veil with a white wimple. The wide tunic sleeves can be rolled back over close-fitting undersleeves to enable tending of the sick. The black habits led to the Cellitines becoming popularly known as "Black Sisters" or Soeurs Noire.