Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I have previously shared my love of classic cars, vintage car hood ornaments and petrol caps. I fear I may never be able to own a vintage Roller, but I am able to own the vintage hood ornament of one. I found it in an antique shop in Armadale on my recent trip to Melbourne. I think it makes a splendid paper weight for my desk.
These days the figurine of the Spirit of Ecstasy remains the same, but the technology to protect such an ornament from thieving little oinks has been updated...
Actually, it is also a safety mechanism. If the car is hit the ornament immediately retracts as the airbags go off.
The Silver Lady as she is also known was designed by sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes. It was modeled on Eleanor Velasco Thornton, the secretary and secret lover of John Douglas-Scott Montagu, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu. She died when the cruise ship she was travelling on was torpedoed in 1915 by the Germans.
Rolls Royce had become concerned that its patrons, caught up in the craze for bonnet decoration, had starting afixing what it considered inappropriate ornaments to their bonnets. Royce decided to commission their own figurine to manage the image of their cars and curb this troublesome craze. At the same time Montagu had commissioned Sykes to make an ornament for the bonnet of his Roller, based on his mistress. Sykes created 'The Whisper' - Eleanor in flowing robes with her finger pressed against her lips intimating the secret of their love. Some refer to this figurine as 'Ellie in her Nightie'.
The first of these ornaments made for Royce was in 1911. They continued to bear Sykes signature until 1951. As my ornament does not carry his signature, I can only conclude that it was made after 1951, but given its size and form it probably dates from the late 50s.
Baby steps. Perhaps, one day... hmmm.