Rolls Royce has become quite an important brand to me in these last few weeks. In part because of a rather dishy German PR but mostly, and more appropriately, because of the history of the company and its relationship with art and glamour alongside meticulous engineering and design.
I’m all for a love story that can be captured for eternity by a great artist or writer so when I heard that Rolls Royce had commissioned Rankin to create 100 images to celebrate the Sprit of Ecstasy centenary my head and my heart simultaneously exploded.
Being a woman who loves luxury and allure it seemed only natural that I would fall in love with Rolls Royce. I have dreams of me and a handsome man (the aforementioned handsome German would do) sitting in the rear of a Silver Cloud convertible, him in a Tom Ford suit with a pair of Persols and me head to toe in Coco Chanel with head scarf and huge sunglasses. We stop for a picnic lunch in the cornish town of Polperro and he feeds me oysters as I drink champagne whilst perched on a Burberry cashmere blanket. Then, with the Spirit of Ecstasy squeezing into view he holds me in his arms and we watch the sunset over the boats in the harbour… You get the picture. Rolls Royce feature in most of my inappropriately expensive but completely enchanting fantasies.
To me, the Spirit of Ecstasy is the driving force behind my romantic relationship with the brand. She is an inspiration. She captures all that makes a women. Beauty, grace, mystery and silent strength. Emotional strength. She is a woman with a secret. A women in love. The story of her love is so bitter sweet and yet there she sits. Content and free.
Ecstasy was inspired by The Whisper. A piece commissioned by the second Lord Montague that is said to immortalize his love affair with his secretary. This love however was never to be officially fulfilled because of her impoverished social status. She watched him marry a woman of notoriety bowing down to the pressures of social acceptance. Their secret love affair continued right up until her death. Rolls Royce’s Spirit Of Ecstasy was to convey the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace and Lord Montague’s lover seemed the perfect symbol of this. Her name was Eleanor Thornton.
Eleanor is an inspiration to me. A woman that loved a man with such passion and grace that she respected why their love couldn’t be celebrated. She watched her love marry another and accepted why he had to do this. She did this without fight or spite. She kept her secret. Whilst her love for Lord Montague couldn’t physically be displayed, purely the knowledge that he loved her was enough to keep her happy. I look at the Spirit of Ecstasy now and I see a woman who looks alone but is not lonely. She adorns one of the most sought-after cars on the planet. The wind billows through her clothes and her eyes are focused on the horizon on the future. Her face is content. It is the face of a woman so in love whose heart has found its home and she needs nothing else but the knowledge this love is returned to be free.
Rankin was given a pretty tall order then when commissioned to celebrate 100 years of such an incredible icon. As one of the world’s most influential photographers though, it seems to me that this was a clever move by Rolls Royce. He has bought all of the detail, the mystery and grace that has kept Eleanor so relevant over the last 100 years to life and produced a collection that enchants and draws you in. Most women, like Ecstasy, hold a secret and these photographs certainly portray that.
You can see the video behind the making of Rankins Spirit Of Ecstasy here The music on this film is called Time Will Remember Us by Gabriel Shadid. Rolls Royce have selected some of their favorites here