Rolls-Royce: Spirit of Ecstasy

The British Automaker’s Winged Muse Marks a Century

One hundred years ago today, sculptor Charles Sykes delivered the design for the world's most iconic hood ornament, Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy. The emblem, which closely resembles the Greek goddess Nike, has changed very little—altered only by aerodynamic tweaks and its button-controlled retraction. These days the figure is made using 21st-century laser mapping in combination with age-old molding techniques, a week-long process documented above. Legend has it that Sykes modeled the three-inch-tall radiator mascot after Eleanor Thornton, the secretary and lover of automotive pioneer Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. The social and economic disparity between the couple prevented them from marrying, so the star-crossed affair remained stealth—and ripe for interpretation. “The famous pantheon grille on which she stands represents the scale and majesty of the cars, while she points to something more mystical and ethereal," says Kris Sukhu, Surface Integration Manager of Rolls-Royce. Available in stainless steel, sterling silver or 24-carat gold, each model bears the inscription “C.S. 2-6-11,” in homage to Sykes’s inscribed signature, and the date he took luxury to a whole new level. 


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