The Spirit of Ecstasy, the mascot that adorns the bonnet of every Rolls-Royce motor car, celebrated her 100th birthday in 2011. Created by the artist Charles Sykes, she was originally an optional extra, but quickly became synonymous with the Rolls-Royce name.
To celebrate the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, an important icon of motoring history, and its connections with the Montagu family, an exhibition was created in the family home of Palace House and can now be viewed in this special online exhibition.
Telling the intriguing story behind the mascot’s creation, this exhibition explored the connections between motoring pioneer, John Montagu, his friend, the British artist and sculptor, Charles Sykes, and John’s secretary and mistress, Eleanor Thornton.
In the early 1900s, a craze had developed for putting personal mascots on car radiators. Many were grotesque or quirky figures of fun. The directors of Rolls-Royce were not impressed by these frivolous add-ons. They felt that if their cars were to carry a mascot, it should be one that reflected their image, so they set about commissioning something suitably graceful and dignified.
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