This fan of bone with silk mount is a wonderful piece of
Caithness memorabilia. Bearing the
name ‘Etta’, it belonged to Eugenie Sarah Henrietta Westmacott (b 6 November
1858 d 15 January 1938). Etta, as she was known to her family, married James
Ernest Caithness (b 17 May 1839 d 16 Feb 1902).
The folded view of the fan shows embossed arms and a motto, ‘I Commit My Work to God’. This is similar to the motto of the Earls of Caithness (surname Sinclair), ‘Commit Thy Work to God’ (Latin Revela Domino opera tua). Elements in the arms on the fan - sailing ship, lions rampant, rooster - echo the Sinclair arms.
Few accessories of the female wardrobe combine functional and decorative qualities as perfectly – or as elegantly - as the fan. Apart from keeping a lady cool in heated ballrooms or theatres and indicating that its owner was in the first rank of fashion, it was indispensable for certain accepted patterns of social behaviour.*
Etta’s fan with its personalized touches would have been a gift to mark a special occasion. Its condition tells us it was a treasured memento, carefully preserved.
* Language of the Fan
By kind permission of the owner of the fan, June B-R.
Photographs and additional information by Tom Sheldon.