Rankin takes on the Spirit of Ecstasy in celebration of her centenary

Spirit of Ecstasy #1 (below right) and #2 (above) by Rankin – Click for high-resolution image gallery

Few marques are as encapsulated in their hood ornaments as is Rolls-Royce. (Which could be largely because Rolls-Royce is one of the last automakers still using hood ornaments.) Its iconic Spirit of ESpirit of Ecstasy #1 by Rankincstasy, as we've been covering, celebrates its centenary this year. And as much as the Flying Lady has inspired over the course of the last 100 years, it's being even more thoroughly re-interpreted as part of its milestone anniversary.

Recent takes on the theme have seen a New York dealership fashioning the ornament out of $200,000 worth of diamonds, a sculptor offering artistic reproductions for home and office, even a blue-lit glass ornament for the Phantom electric prototype. Now Rolls-Royce has commissioned the celebrated photographer Rankin to give his take on the Spirit of Ecstasy with a series of 100 photographs.

The photos will be gradually revealed over the coming months, but Rankin and Rolls have already revealed the first two, which you see pictured here. To create them, Rankin used his muse, model and wife Tuuli Shipster. And as you can see, the results are quite dramatic. Have a closer look in our high-resolution image gallery, follow the jump for the full press release and watch rolls-roycemotorcars.com/rankin for more as the collection goes live.
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Goodwood, 10 May 2011

In the year that celebrates the centenary of the Spirit of Ecstasy, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars today announced details of a very special commission. Over the next months, 100 images inspired by the Spirit of Ecstasy - the figurine famed for its prominent and defining position on the bonnet of every Rolls-Royce - will be captured by renowned photographer Rankin. The first two images in the Rankin: Spirit of Ecstasy collection are revealed today.

Like Charles Robinson Sykes, the man who crafted the legendary Spirit of Ecstasy flying lady one hundred years ago, Rankin takes inspiration from the beauty and sensuality of the feminine form. Just as Eleanor Velasco Thornton is rumoured to have been Sykes' muse for the Spirit of Ecstasy, so Rankin has turned to his inspirational wife and model Tuuli Shipster for the first of his 100 portraits.

Spirit of Ecstasy #1 launches a commission which sees Rankin offered full artistic licence to create a modern and very personal interpretation of the Spirit of Ecstasy, an unprecedented approach for a brand like Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and its iconic figure. Featuring Tuuli in silhouette, draped in flowing fabric, the image has undeniable resonance with the flying lady, echoing the qualities which inspired Sykes 100 years ago, whilst capturing the mystery within which she is shrouded; for the question of whether or not Eleanor Thornton was truly the inspiration for the Spirit of Ecstasy 100 years ago remains one of intrigue and debate rather than hard fact.1

The Rankin: Spirit of Ecstasy collection will evolve organically in the months ahead, incorporating a variety of themes as part of Rankin's exploration of the contemporary Spirit of Ecstasy. Power, the beauty of age, intrigue and mystery, speed, wind and metallic will blend with materials, fabrics and paint, to create an unprecedented selection of photographic portraits which will complement each other as a full set, but also work individually to ensure global appeal. The work will feature a selection of women of different ages and cultures, symbolising the femininity of the Spirit of Ecstasy.

"This is one of the biggest projects I have ever taken on," commented Rankin. "The images will be a statement about the modern day Rolls-Royce; they will feel fresh, directional and original, while also being beautiful and inspirational. The portraits will comprise a variety of perspectives, including full length as well as close-up shots incorporating facial features – an eye, a mouth – to reflect a unique interpretation of the figurine's connotations, while quietly symbolising its classic underpinnings."

Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars CEO added, "Rankin's powerful portraits are part of contemporary iconography. His talent for capturing the strength and character of his subjects makes him the ideal photographer to take the Spirit of Ecstasy into the 21st century. I very much look forward to presenting this unique photographic collection to the world."

Rankin: Spirit of Ecstasy will tour throughout 2011. Original portraits will be presented at a range of events across the world. In addition, Rolls-Royce owners and guests will be invited to a series of exclusive private views at Rolls-Royce showrooms in the months ahead, starting at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars London on 10 May.

For more information on this unique photographic collection and the locations where it will be presented over the coming months, visit www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com/rankin

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