Rolls-Royce has redesigned its legendary Spirit of Ecstasy mascot for its brand-new all-electric motor car Spectre. The move signals the brand’s dedication to the future, and its goal to go completely electric by 2030.
The graceful, iconic Spirit of Ecstacy officially became Rolls-Royce’s intellectual property 111 years ago, on 6 February 1911. Over the decades, the Spirit of Ecstasy has undergone several design changes but remains one of the most recognisable symbols in the world.
In 2020, Rolls-Royce unveiled a rebrand by Pentagram where the Spirit of Ecstasy was modernised into a silky form that evokes movement. Today, the figurine is more streamlined and elegant than ever before. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive officer at Rolls-Royce, expressed that the Spirit of Ecstasy is “a constant source of inspiration and pride for the marque and its clients” and along with Rolls-Royce, “has always moved with the times while staying true to her nature and character”.
In designing the figurine’s new form, Rolls-Royce’s designers consulted stylists at Goodwood for their perspective on every thinkable element, from “hair” and “clothes” to “expression”.
In the new design, according to the director of design Anders Warming, the Spirit of Ecstasy is “lower and more focussed; braced for unprecedented speed and the exciting future”. Originally, the figurine stood with her feet together, with straight legs and tilted at the waist.
Now, the refined mascot leans forward with one foot forward, which expresses the brand’s perpetual pursuit of progress. Her dress flows in the wind around her — the image likened to Rolls-Royce’s products in motion — and her body is tucked low with eager eyes looking ahead.
The current design goes back to its roots and resembles the first sketches by its creator, Charles Sykes. Sykes was the chief illustrator in Britain’s first motoring magazine, The Car Illustrated, established by journalist and motoring enthusiast John Montagu. The beautifully crafted mascot was confirmed to have been modelled on Eleanor Thornton, the Ofice Manager at the magazine, and also the character of a love affair with Montagu.
In 1910, British motor vehicle manufacturer Claude Johnson, then managing director of Rolls-Royce, tasked Sykes with creating a mascot that could enhance their cars. Johnson, who was instrumental in the creation of Rolls-Royce and described himself as the hyphen in the brand name, told Sykes to produce an adornment similar to the Louvre Palace’s ‘Nike of Samothrace’ marble sculpture.
During the conceptualisation, Sykes thought the Goddess of Victory Nike was too domineering and believed a more delicate figure could better represent “the marque’s grace, silence, and subtle power”. Sykes drew inspiration from Eleanor Thornton, who was highly intelligent, famed for her beauty, and frequently posed for the illustrator. It was also said that Sykes created the Spirit of Ecstasy with his mother in mind, which resulted in his artistic vision of “the ideal of womanhood”.
Back then, every figurine was personally cast, inscribed, and hand-finished by Sykes himself. Sykes’ daughter took over in 1928 before the war outbreak in 1939. Therefore, each figurine during that period is slightly different from the other. Now, the figurines are made by specialists in Southampton with a wax casting process — fusing methods and materials from over 5,000 years ago with 21st Century technology. In continuing the marque’s tradition of the human element, each figurine will still differ minimally from every other.
The Spirit of Ecstasy will appear on all future models. Meanwhile, the previous design will still be used on the Phantom, Ghost, Wraith, Dawn, and Cullinan.
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