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Studying for a test? Prepare with these 5 lessons on Ancient Mediterranean: 3500 B.C.E.-300 C.E. .
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Video transcript
STEVEN ZUCKER: We're in the Louvre at the top of one of the grand staircases. And we're looking at the "Nike of Samothrace," that dates to the second century CE, or after Christ. BETH HARRIS: So we're in the Hellenistic period. And the sculpture is nine feet high, so it's really large. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's called the "Nike of Samothrace" because it was found on the island in the north of the Aegean which is called Samothrace. It was found in a sanctuary in the harbor that actually faces in such a way the predominant wind that blows off the coast actually seems to be enlivening her drapery. BETH HARRIS: So she never stood on the prow of a real boat. STEVEN ZUCKER: No, she stood on the prow of a stone ship that was within a temple environment. BETH HARRIS: So she's the goddess of victory. She's a messenger goddess who spreads the news of victory. STEVEN ZUCKER: In fact, there are some reconstructions of what the sculpture would've originally looked like that show her as literally a herald with a horn. This is an image that will have an enormous impact on Western art. But you had mentioned the Hellenistic before. And so gone is all of that very reserved, high classical style. And in its place is a kind of voluptuousness. is a kind of windswept energy that is full of motion and full of emotion. BETH HARRIS: I feel as though she moves in several directions at the same time. She's grounded by her legs but strides forward. Her torso lifts up. Her abdomen twists. Her wings move back. One can almost feel the wind around her, whipping her, pulling back that drapery that flows out behind her, swirling around her abdomen, where it really reminds us of, actually, the sculptures of hundreds of years earlier on the Parthenon frieze. STEVEN ZUCKER: Yes, exactly. But instead of the quiet, relaxed attitude of the gods on Mount Olympus, you have instead this sense of energy and a goddess that's responding, in this case, to actually natural forces. BETH HARRIS: The environment. STEVEN ZUCKER: Absolutely, just as we would stand there, very likely having the wind whip around us. BETH HARRIS: And that drapery that clings to her body and creates so many creases and folds that play against the light, and the different texture of her wings-- the marble is really made to do so many different things in terms of texture. STEVEN ZUCKER: So here is a culture that has studied the body, celebrated the body, and then is willing then to use the body for tremendous expressive force.