The carved wooden gesso covered head with simply painted dark brown eyes with white dots and single stroke eye brows, mouth and nostrils painted in red and having rouged cheeks, the gesso covered torso tapering at the waist with rounded hips and jointed at the hips and knees held by hidden pegs, lower legs painted in black with block feet, cloth upper arms with carved wooden fore arms and well carved splayed hands with long forked fingers, wearing the habit of the Carmelite missionary order of Bethune, with hand woven white wool habit with glass rosary beads and red panel front with metal Catholic Order medal on a blue ribbon, black gauze veil and white cotton wimple.
Displayed in a primitive wooden case with large hand-forged cast iron hook, lined with period hand-blocked English wallpaper, and later hand painted on paper scene to back showing an oriental (probably Korean) cultivation scene with scripture to top, possibly indicating some of Catherines travels. Hand written note to base reads:
'Catherine Bonnel Dite
Soeur isabelle religieuse
Souprieure au Couvent
Des annonciade en la
Ville De Bethune'
(slight rub to nose and two small flakes of gesso to eyebrows, lacks small finger to right hand and tip to right foot).
Doll 33cm (13in) tall. Case 43cm (17in) high and 34cm (13 1/2in) wide.
Provenance: The few known 17th century wooden dolls, dressed in habits, seem to speak eloquently of the religious turmoil of the times. The autocracy and catholic fervor of James II led directly to the "Glorious Revolution", the king's abdication in 1688, and the ' Protestant Wind' which brought William and Mary to the throne of England. So intense was this religious upheaval at the time that parliament passed a law forbidding any future catholic monarch, or spouse.
Many prominent catholic families, fearing for their children's religious education and safety, smuggled them out of England, and mostly to France. It is believed that some of these dolls accompanied the young ladies and were later dressed and returned to England to show the families that they were safe, and to indicate the order they had joined, thus becoming an important means of communication.
The background picture to the case in which the doll stands is a mystery, however, there were Missionaries in or around Korea by the 17th Century and the Jesuit Atlas of 1653 by Martini shows Korea correctly.
The Carmelite convent at Bethune was prominently mentioned in 'The Three Musketeers' by Alexandre Dumas, 1844.