The Story Of The Rolls-Royce Emblem

The Rolls-Royce emblem has always been regarded as a perfect symbol of speed, style and grace. The figure of a goddess in the style of Nike, leaning forward into the air, with her wind-blown draperies flowing behind her, has adorned the radiators of Rolls-Royce motor-cars since 1911. During the 1930s there was renewed interest in quality sculpture and Rolls-Royce decided to feature, as part of their marketing, a large ‘Emblem Statue’ in their most prestigious showrooms. Given pride of place amongst the motor-cars on display, the 30-inch high statues were much admired and appreciated.

The history of the creation of the original mascot design, as fitted to the 40/50hp Rolls-Royce ‘Silver Ghost’, is one of time, place and not a little intrigue. In 1902 John Scott Montagu (later 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) launched a new magazine entitled ‘The Car Illustrated’ and occasionally employed a young artist named Charles Sykes to provide illustrations and cartoons for the publication.

 However, Sykes had a particular talent and passion for sculpture, and frequently exhibited his work in London’s fashionable Chelsea and Belgravia. When we move forward to 1910, we discover that the Board of Directors of Rolls-Royce was becoming increasingly alarmed by the scant regard being shown by drivers towards their motor-cars, which were often obliged to suffer the indignity of being ‘adorned’ with unseemly soft toys and miniature sculptures of dubious taste, fitted to their radiator grilles and caps as talismans or lucky charms. The Rolls-Royce Board decided that something had to be done, and that a more august and exclusive mascot should be designed. Claude Johnson, a valued friend of John Montagu, was introduced to the work of Charles Sykes, and he subsequently asked Sykes to design a suitable emblem. After several unsuccessful ideas, the Rolls-Royce Board announced the launch of their new mascot in March 1911.

Some years after the death of John Scott Montagu it was revealed that an Edwardian beauty named Eleanor Thornton had been the model for the ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’. This had been a closely guarded secret at the time of the mascot’s creation, for Eleanor was not only Montagu’s personal secretary but also his mistress, and public scandal had to be avoided at all costs. Claude Johnson had been a close friend of the couple for over a decade, and was well aware of their illicit relationship. He, too, was mesmerised by Eleanor’s beauty, and it was he who suggested to Charles Sykes that she would be the ideal model for the new Rolls-Royce mascot. The love affair between Montagu and Eleanor Thornton came to a tragic end in 1915, when the ship on which they were sailing, H.M.S. Persia, was torpedoed in the eastern Mediterranean, Montagu survived the disaster but, sadly Eleanor drowned.

When the new Rolls-Royce mascot was first shown in public in 1911, Claude Johnson was moved to write:

‘Mr Sykes had in mind the spirit of ecstasy, who selected road travel as her supreme delight and has alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor-car to revel in the freshness of air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies’.

Today, those same graceful draperies, elegant style and angelic features are faithfully preserved in this new, highly-detailed and hand-finished limited edition statue.With the approach of the 110th anniversary of the creation of Charles Syke’s legendary mascot design, Priory Fine Art are thrilled to be offering a limited edition of Rolls-Royce ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ Showroom Statues.Standing at over twenty-six inches (67cms) high, these exquisitely detailed and expertly hand-finished sculptures have been created using an original 1930’s Rolls-Royce showroom statuette as a key point of reference; however, Priory Fine Art have also skilfully ensured a higher quality of precision and meticulous attention to detail in their creation. The model’s draperies and skin tones have received particular sympathetic treatment, and the concave base has a distinctive and very attractive textured finish, with delicate cross hatching which has the double advantage of highlighting the original signature.

Each highly appealing and inspirational statue weighs thirty-nine pounds and has been created using a hot-cast bronze technique without resin adulterations or man-made substances*. Supported by an accentuated hollow-cast bronze dais with a Pralarn-Black marble support and padded base, this imposing figure will look splendid in any setting, be it boardroom, private lounge or showroom.Each of the statues will have a unique limited-edition letter stamped recto, and will be finished in an elegant gold. Other finishes, such as silver or gold-plating, can be supplied to special order on request, subject to an additional fee.

*Silicon Bronze with a composition of 95% copper, 4% metal silicon and 1% Manganese.