One of the special commissions that is never found in any of the Cybis literature is the Spirit of Ecstasy that they produced in 1979 for the Rolls Royce Owners Club. This was a very unusual piece in that it not only had a restricted distribution but also had several numbered artist proofs.
“Spirit of Ecstasy” is the actual name of the hood ornament that most people call simply the Flying Lady.
The Cybis sculpture is 9.25” high and has a wingspan of about six inches. She is mounted onto a walnut base that has a brushed stainless steel placque on both the front and back. The front plaque reads Spirit of Ecstasy 75th Anniversary 1904 1979 and the rear placque Rolls Royce Motors Limited 1979 Trademark Registered in US Patent and Trademark Office. Although the sculpture is white bisque it has very subtle pale greenish highlights that are best seen in the second photograph.
This sculpture could only be obtained by a member of the Rolls Royce Owners Club, by application to the club directly. It was never sold by any retail gallery. A business associate of someone in my family happened to own a Rolls Royce at the time and agreed to purchase this piece on our behalf; to be honest, I wasn’t privy to the financial end of the sale and thus honestly do not know what its price was at the time other than that it was definitely in the four-figure category. I believe, though am not 100% positive, that a Certificate of Authenticity from the Owners Club came with it. Our piece was sold along with the bulk of the collection several decades later.
There is some question regarding how many of these were actually made. One non-Cybis source claims that there were 80 numbered pieces available to members plus 10 numbered artist’s proofs. If true, the choice of 80 as a “member edition” size seems odd considering that the piece was commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the car; one would think the edition size would have been 75. The highest numbered piece that I have seen offered for sale online has been #74, and also Artist’s Proof numbers 1, 3, 4 and 5.
It has been claimed that a completely un-numbered piece was presented to Leonid Breznev as a gift from Richard Nixon; the Soviet Premier owned a Rolls Royce. This is, however, an anecdotal story that cannot be confirmed.
Update, 2019: I have been able to ascertain from a former studio employee that this is not an original Cybis design; the studio simply took a casting of an actual Rolls Royce hood ornament, upsized it, and prepared their Master and Production molds from that. Therefore it is a porcelain copy of the actual Spirit of Ecstasy ornament as designed by Charles Robinson Sykes in 1911. That version was a slight redesign of his earlier ornament called The Whisper.
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