Good morning from a sunny but cool Hastings morning.
Here is my Monochrome Madness image for the week. Check out the other images at Leanne Cole PHOTOGRAPHY. Of course my image was taken at the Art Deco weekend. I had fun on Saturday taking photos of all the car mascots. They do make a car much more interesting, and it is a shame that modern cars really don’t have them.
This is the Spirit of Ecstasy. I think this golden lady was on a silver Rolls Royce phantom. I should have checked out the registration details but I was just more interested in taking photos of the mascots, than the small details. Anyway I was watching the programme Antiques Roadshow yesterday and there was some design sketches by Charles Sykes showing the progression of the design. They were quite valuable, even a small cut out cardboard version was worth $1000. So I went to Wikipedia to find out more about this very stylish lady:
The Spirit of Ecstasy, also called “Emily”, “Silver Lady” or “Flying Lady”, was designed by English sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes and carries with it a story about a secret passion between John Walter Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, (second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu after 1905, a pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine from 1902) and the model for the emblem,Eleanor Velasco Thornton. Eleanor (also known as Thorn) was the secretary of John Walter, who fell in love with her in 1902 when she worked for him on the aforesaid motoring magazine. Their secret love was to remain hidden, limited to their circle of friends, for more than a decade. The reason for the secrecy was Eleanor’s impoverished social and economic status, which was an obstacle to their love. On the other hand, Montagu was married to Lady Cecil Victoria Constance Kerr since 1889.
Eleanor died on 30 December 1915 when the SS Persia was torpedoed by a U-boat south of Crete. She had been accompanying Lord Montagu who had been directed to take over a command in India. He was thought to have been killed too, but survived and was saved after several days adrift on a life raft.
The Whisper, precursor to the spirit of ecstasy
When Montagu commissioned his friend Sykes, who worked in London under the nobleman’s patronage, to sculpt a personal mascot for the bonnet of his 1910 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, Sykes chose Eleanor Thornton as his model. Sykes originally crafted a figurine of her in fluttering robes, having placed one forefinger against her lips – to symbolize the secret of their love affair. The figurine was consequently named The Whisper and is on display at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu along with other Spirit of Ecstasy figurines.
Only three or four castings were ever made, and only two are believed to have survived.
The Spirit of Ecstasy
The very first Rolls-Royce motorcars did not feature radiator mascots; they simply carried the Rolls-Royce emblem. This, however, was not enough for their customers who believed that such a prestigious vehicle as a Rolls-Royce motorcar should have its own luxurious mascot, and by 1910 personal mascots had become the fashion of the day. Rolls-Royce were concerned to note that some owners were affixing “inappropriate” ornaments to their cars. Claude Johnson, then managing director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, was asked to see to the commissioning of something more suitably dignified and graceful.
So he turned to Charles Sykes, a young artist friend and a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, to produce a mascot which would adorn all future Rolls-Royce cars and become generic to the marque, with the specifications that it should convey “the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…”
Sykes’ brief from Claude Johnson had been to evoke the spirit of mythical beauty, Nike, whose graceful image was admired in The Louvre, but Sykes was not impressed. He felt that a more feminine representation might be apt.
It was again Miss Thornton whom he had in mind. Sykes chose to modify The Whisper into a version similar to today’s; ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’. He called this first model The Spirit of Speed. Later, Charles Sykes called it “A graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight and alighted on the prow of a Rolls-Royce motor car to revel in the freshness of the air and the musical sound of her fluttering draperies.” Some critics and fans of the Rolls Royce have given The Spirit of Ecstasy the dubious nickname “Ellie in her Nightie”, suggesting Eleanor’s influence as Sykes’ muse.
Claude Johnson devised the description of The Spirit of Ecstasy, he described how Sykes had sought to convey the image of “the spirit of ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight……she is expressing her keen enjoyment, with her arms outstretched and her sight fixed upon the distance.”
Royce was ill during the commissioning of the flying lady. He did not believe the figurine enhanced the cars, asserting that it impaired the driver’s view, and was rarely seen driving one of his company’s vehicles adorned with the mascot.
In February 1911 Sykes presented to Rolls-Royce the “Spirit of Ecstasy”, which was easily recognisable as being a variation on the theme of “The Whisper”. The similarity was hardly coincidental because the model for both had been Miss Thornton. The sculptor’s signature appeared on the plinth and were either signed “Charles Sykes, February 1911” or “Feb 6, 1911” or “6.2.11”. Even after Rolls-Royce took over the casting of the figures in 1948 each Spirit of Ecstasy continued to receive this inscription until 1951.
The Spirit of Ecstasy was also manufactured by the British firm Louis Lejeune Ltd. for a number of years.
Royce made sure it was officially listed as an optional extra, but in practice it was fitted to almost all cars after that year, becoming a standard fitting in the early 1920s. Automobiles change with the times, and the Spirit of Ecstasy was no exception. It was silver plated from 1911 until 1914 when the mascot was made with nickel or chrome alloy to dissuade theft. The only departure from this came in Paris at the competition for the most apposite mascot of 1920, where a gold-plated version won first place. Gold-plated versions were subsequently available at additional cost.
Although it seems unchanged, the mascot had eleven main variations in its life. Lowered height of coachwork forced subsequent reductions in the mascot size. Consequently, several alterations in the original design were made.
Thanks for visiting and do pop over to check out the other amazing monochrome photos.