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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

The decoder: Rolls-Royce's Spirit of Ecstasy

The female figurine that announces the nose of a Rolls-Royce may look mythical, but it is actually based on a real woman

The Spirit of Ecstasy on the new Rolls-Royce Phantom
The Spirit of Ecstasy on the new Rolls-Royce Phantom

The female figurine that announces the nose of a Rolls-Royce may look mythical, but it is actually based on a real woman.

Eleanor Thornton was a muse for bohemian artist/sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes, who was a friend of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce in early 20th-century London.

Thornton rose from modest beginnings to become an integral part of the British elite, and in 1909, Sykes depicted her as an ornamental figure leaning forward towards the wind, arms outstretched and dress billowing. It purported to encapsulate the pursuit of personal liberty and freedom from conformity. Thornton’s story would end in tragedy – she drowned as a passenger of the SS Persia when it was sunk by a German U-boat in 1915 – but her spirit lives on in the grandest of car-makers.

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