V&A Search the Collections

Canoness of the Holy Ghost

  • Object:

    Ecclesiastical figure

  • Place of origin:

    France (possibly, made)
    Germany (possibly, made)
    Netherlands (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    first half 19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Figure made of tow and wax, dressed in linen and woollen materials.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mr. G. Smith

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Public access description

    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 Canoness of the Holy Ghost. The Order of the Holy Ghost was founded by Guy de Montpellier in the early 13th century for the purpose of caring for the sick. The order ran a number of hospitals throughout Europe which were known as Hospitals of the Holy Ghost. The Canonesses of the order wore a black tunic with a leather belt and close-fitting undersleeves. This enabled the wide tunic sleeves to be rolled back to easily tend to the sick. The veil and wimple are white.

  • Physical description

    Figure made of wax and tow, dressed in linen and woollen fabrics.
    Black tunic, white wimple, white veil

  • Dimensions

    Height: 31 cm including stand

  • Object history note

    One of a group of 50 figures given to the Educational Department by Mr. G. Smith of St John's Wood in 1868, but only formally accessioned in 1905. The labels on the bases are in French but some of the orders represented (e.g the Alexians and the Order of the Conception) seem to have been confined to Germany and the Low Countries. (from original acquisition record for 1905)

  • Descriptive line

    Wax and tow figure dressed as a Canoness of the Holy Spirit

  • Collection code

    Textiles and Fashion Collection