Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sculpture of the Week: The Nike of Samothrace, 190 BC

The Louvre

Also known as “Winged Victory” or “The Winged Victory of Samothrace,” this parian marble sculpture was created by an unknown Greek artist in 190 B.C. to commemorate a triumphant naval battle. Originally, it was mounted on a gray marble pedestal meant to resemble the prow of a ship. It is believed to have been placed in a niche in an open-air theater which overlooked a ship monument to Demetrius I Poliokretes.

Discovered in 1863 by French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau and brought to the Louvre for reassembly, the arms and head of the piece have never been found. However, art historians believe that her arms extended upward with one hand cupped around her mouth as she heralded her arrival from the Heavens. In 1950, one of her hands was found—missing its fingers. A ring finger and thumb in storage in an Austrian museum fit the piece and were reunited with the hand which is on display in a case next to the statue’s permanent and long-time home at the top of the Daru Staircase at the Louvre Museum.
Winged Victory Being Moved in 1939
The Louvre
The fine sculpting of the piece is often used as an example of the ideals of beauty so associated with Classical Greek art. This is a work that has inspired many artists in all genres and is one of the most beloved antiquities in the world. In 1939, with Europe embroiled in war, The Nike was removed from its perch on the Daru Staircase and taken to a safe location. The statue’s importance and the reverence of the French people were evident as the sculpture was carefully crated and lowered down the grand expanse of stairs.

After the war, it was returned to its place in the Louvre. Many copies of the sculpture exist. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright was fascinated by the organic beauty of the sculpture and often incorporated copies of it in his designs. 
The Winged Victory of Samothrace is often considered one of the most breathtaking sculptures ever made. Many feel that the piece is the embodiment of the feminine spirit. Others feel that it is a symbol of triumph. Regardless of any meaning assigned to it, no one can deny its supreme beauty. 

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