Car mascots were popular for many years from the Edwardian period through to the 1950s and 1960s, placed on or above the centre of the radiator grille either chosen by the owner as an ornament to personalise a vehicle or fitted at the time of manufacture.
When John Scott Montagu (Second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu) commissioned Charles Sykes to create a personal mascot for his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, he chose Eleanor Thornton, his secretary and secret love, to be the model.
The resulting mascot was christened The Whisper and depicts a young woman, in fluttering robes with a secretive forefinger pressed to her lips. In 1910, when Rolls-Royce, commissioned Sykes to design a mascot to adorn their radiators, it is widely believed that Eleanor became the inspiration for Sykes’ iconic mascot, ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy’.
Tragically Eleanor never lived to witness the success of the emblem made in her image as whilst travelling to India on the P&O liner SS Persia with Lord Montagu in 1915, the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Whilst Eleanor lost her life in the attack, Lord Montagu survived and returned to England, distraught with grief, but unable to openly mourn for his secret love.
Mascots were usually cast in brass, zinc, or bronze and given a chrome plated finish. However some of the most highly desirable ones were made by the French glass designer Rene Jules Lalique (1860–1945).
Lalique, known for his jewellery, glass perfume bottles and vases, was commissioned in 1925 by Andre Citroen, to produce the first 'official' car mascot of five prancing horses for the Citroen Cinq Chevaux. Several car mascots followed, including this one, the Chrysis Flying Lady, first produced in March 1931.
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