Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On the wings of Victory

Been a while! I thought I'd get back in the groove of things with my favorite sculpture of all time. Maybe you think I'm just like everyone else in my love for this particular piece...maybe you think I'm nuts because for Heaven's sakes, she has no head or arms. But I adore this sculpture and I have to share her with you!

The Nike of Samothrace - The Louvre, Paris, France

Isn't she marvelous??

In Greek mythology, Nike is the winged goddess of Victory that presides over both war and athletic competition. According to the epics of Hesiod, Nike is the daughter of Styx (Hatred) and Pallas (god of war craft), sister to Bia (Force), Zelos (Rivalry), and Kratos (Strength). When Zeus was preparing to go to war against the Titans, Styx and her children immediately pledged their allegiance to fight beside him. In reward, Zeus made Nike his charioteer and proclaimed that the four children should remain by his side always. Here, Nike's mythology stops. However, since that time, it is common to see Nike figurines accompanying cult statues of Zeus or his daughter Athena.

I took this picture when I got to visit the Louvre in 2007 :). This made for a happy Artgazer.

The Nike of Samothrace typifies Hellenistic sculpture. Produced between 200 and 180 B.C., this sculpture was built to celebrate victories in 190/89 by the Rhodian fleet over the Seleukid navy of Antiochos III and Myonessos. Her base is the prow of a ship, appropriate to commemorate naval battle, and she was placed in a highly visible location above a local theater on the island of Samothrace.

She was rediscovered in 1863 in pieces (as she was originally assembled, in many parts). She was shipped in the same year to Paris. The entirety of her right wing and the majority of her left shoulder as it attaches to her preserved left wing has been restored with plaster. She has sat at the top of the Daru staircase in the Louvre since 1883.

On the outset, the Nike is very balanced: Two legs, two arms (though missing), two legs. She's striding confidently forward into the wind which causes her garb to flutter and flow behind her. Her wings are lifted dynamically as if she's about to jump headlong into the wind and actually fly. Her torso twists dramatically through her stride and you can clearly discern her natural curves through her dress. Transparent cloth on this Nike is a more conservative take on 5th century B.C. wet drapery.

I've always been kind of fascinated by angelic imagery AND mythology, and she's the embodiment of both worlds. I love her confidence and dynamic stride and how emotional, triumphant, and literally victorious she looks. I actually wrote a paper in undergrad on the evolution of movement in Greek Nike sculpture, so...Yeah! I just love her. :)


  1. I LOVE this statue. Nike... she is the original super model. Ha ha. But, seriously... I have always loved Greek and Roman mythology.

  2. The true combination of grace and strength. Like some of our great female athletes of today. I love this statue. Thank you for sharing.