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 a Fille Dévote. The fille dévote was an unmarried woman who followed a religious life without taking vows or withdrawing from the world. Individual fille dévotes first appeared in France in the early seventeenth century, gradually forming communities devoted to nurturing work such as tending to the sick, poor, and disadvantaged, teaching, and raising small children. Although similar to the Béguines (see 1212:3-1905), fille dévotes are a distinct group. While this figure wears a sombre black cloth dress, its fitted bodice, narrow waist and wide hips reflect the fashionable silhouette of the eighteenth century. Her large floppy black bonnet is of a type traditionally worn by Alsatian women, which may indicate the figures were made in or near Alsace, on the border between France and Germany.