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What is it about the headless and armless Winged Victory of Samothrace that halts breath? Sculpted somewhere between 250 BC and 180 AD and now the Louvre’s staircase Winged Victory of Samothracecentrepiece, the Victory could not have been more perfect were it whole. The triumphant pose on the prow, the drapes blown against the curvaceous form by a strong sea breeze, the splendid drama of the enormous thrown-back wings affirming headlong courage and victory, sometimes what is lost makes us concentrate better on what remains.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.

The monument consists of a statue of a winged female figure – the messenger goddess Victory – and a base in the shape of the prow of a ship, standing on a low pedestal.

Overall, the work measures 5.57 m (18 feet 3 ins) in height. The statue, made of white Paros marble, stands 2.75 m (9 feet) tall, including the wings. The base (2.01 m, 6 feet 7 ins) and the pedestal (36 cm, 1 foot 2 ins) are sculpted from grey white-veined marble from the quarries of Lartos on the island of Rhodes. The darker color contrasts with the white marble of the statue, although a patina has now formed over the whole surface of the monument.

The Nike of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 190 BC. It was created to not only honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery through its features which the Greeks considered ideal beauty.

The Victory is wearing a long chiton, or tunic, of fine cloth, that falls in folds to her feet. To shorten the skirts, the cloth is gathered by a belt, hidden by the folds which hang over the hips. The chiton is held in place by a second belt beneath the breasts.

The garment’s flowing lines are portrayed with great virtuosity. The fabric over the stomach and the left thigh is shot over with wrinkles that seem to skim over the skin underneath. The light cloth is bunched in narrow folds on the figure’s sides, while the front of the left leg is carved with surface incisions to create an effect of light fabric drapery.

Modern excavations suggest that the Victory occupied a niche in an open-air theater and also suggest it accompanied an altar that was within view of the ship monument of Demetrius I Poliorcetes (337–283 BC). Rendered in white Parian marble, the figureoriginally formed part of the Samothrace temple complex dedicated to the Great gods, Winged Victory of Samothrace sideMegaloi Theoi. It stood on a rostral pedestal of gray marble from Lartos representing the prow of a ship (most likely a trihemiolia), and represents the goddess as she descends from the skies to the triumphant fleet. Before she lost her arms, which have never been recovered, Nike’s right arm was raised, cupped round her mouth to deliver the shout of Victory.

The himation, worn wrapped in a roll round the waist, has worked loose at the figure’s left hip. A large gathering of folds have slipped between the figure’s legs, leaving the left hip and leg uncovered. The right hip and leg are covered to half-way down the calf. The cloak has swept open, with a fold of cloth streaming out behind the figure, so that we see the inside of the cloth. The unfastened cloak is held against the Victory’s body by the sheer force of the wind.

The 1913 sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space by the Futuristic sculptor Umberto Boccioni, currently located at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, was highly influenced by the statue. It bears an underlying resemblance to Nike of Samothrace.

Numerous copies exist in museums and galleries around the world; one of the best-known copies stands outside the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas. The first FIFA World Cup trophy, commissioned in 1930 and designed by Abel Lafleur, was based on the model.

 

Resources on the Internet

 

The article in the English Wikipedia
Photo Gallery
musee.louvre.fr

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