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The Bird that Rolls

On this day, Rolls Royce adorned its bonnet with the “Spirit of Ecstasy”

What is the “Spirit of Ecstasy?”

The “Spirit of Ecstasy” is the bonnet ornament of the Rolls Royce. The “Spirit of Ecstasy” takes the form of a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above; her clothes run from her arms to her back almost resembling the wings of a bird.

The ornament was designed by Charles Robinson Sykes, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art. Some of you might wonder what the inspiration behind such a graceful ornament was. The correct question would rather be about who is inspiration behind this sculpture?

Eleanor Velasco Thornton served as the inspiration for “Spirit of Ecstasy.” To understand what really motivated Rolls Royce to commission the design of its logo, we would need to understand the lifestyle and habits of Rolls Royce owners at the time. In the year 1910, mascots had become the norm for most companies. Owners of a Rolls Royce would often attach inappropriate ornaments to the car. Claude Johnson, the managing director of Rolls Royce turned to Sykes to create a mascot that conveyed the company’s design ideology – speed with silence. There is a misconception that “Spirit of Ecstasy” was based on another mascot called “The Whisper,” but in reality both these mascots were inspired by Miss Thornton.

This ornament for some is a symbol of luxury, while for others it is a symbol of beauty & grace, and yet for some it stands for effortless speed.

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