Cadillac's newest flagship EV design concept teased Wednesday, the Celestiq sedan, may hint toward a shift in aesthetics from the past. The very distant past.
There's very little to go off of in most of the new images—a taillight with a modernist LED hockey-stick shape, a styling touch of brushed aluminum somewhere on the car, a literal bolt—but the final shot has an interesting styling cue that Cadillac hasn't used in decades, one that harks back to before World War II.
That is an angelic figure, or more precisely, Cadillac's Goddess. The Goddess was featured as a hood ornament on most of the marque's cars in some form from 1933 to 1956, but at her peak winged form in the pre-war period. She was a perfect embodiment of the art deco movement's aesthetic obsession with stylized, streamlined figures of women, often inspired by ancient Greek or Roman mythology.
By the time the winged figure departed from the nose of Cadillacs in the mid-50s, her form was mostly unrecognizable from her previous swan-diving shape, but the Celestiq's angelic symbol was inspired by the more traditional designs of the '30s and early '40s with visible wings and actual form to her body. Seeing a symbol of a brand that hasn't been used in decades isn't entirely uncommon in the modern era—evoking nostalgia has been something several automakers have leaned on in recent years. (Supra, anyone?) But to reach so deeply into the vault of design from when most drivers weren't even born suggests a deeper purpose than simply reminding the Silent Generation what the cars of their youth looked like.
Instead, I wonder if it signals a shift from the more modernist "Art and Science" language of recent Cadillacs to a more svelte, stylish, and potentially even streamlined art deco future. It would parallel the previous rise of the architectural and design style, which reached its peak of influence in the mid-1920s at the International Exhibition of Modern and Industrial Decorative Arts. The world embraced a new, optimistic era of modern technology with ambitious vehicles, buildings, and even appliances that reflected the high-technology future (one built out of a world suffering from the scars of war and a deadly and highly contagious pandemic). Art deco was a gilded, confident visual language that paired perfectly with the optimism of the roarin' twenties, and the Cadillac Goddess fit perfectly into that vision in its time. Perhaps Cadillac has seen the parallels from a century ago and decided it's time for the same hopeful aesthetics.
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