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Winged Victory (Nike) of Samothrace

Nike (Winged Victory) of Samothrace, Lartos marble (ship) and Parian marble (figure), c. 190 B.C.E. 3.28m high, Hellenistic Period (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The sculpture was unearthed in 1863 after its discovery under the direction of Charles Champoiseau​, the French Vice-Consul to Turkey. Please note that the theoretical reconstruction of the Nike as a trumpeter mentioned in the video has been largely abandoned; the monument is now thought to have been part of a fountain possibly commemorating a naval victory. Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
Video transcript
(music playing) 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 2nd century C.E. or after Christ. So we're in the Hellenistic period and the sculpture is 9 feet high, so it's really large. 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. So she never stood on the prow of a real boat? No. She stood on the prow of a stone ship that was within a temple environment. So she's the goddess of victory. She's a messenger goddess, who spreads the news of victory. In fact, there are some reconstructions of what the sculpture would have 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 know, you had mentioned the Hellenistic before, and so gone is all 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. 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. Yes, exactly. But instead of the quiet, relaxed attitude of the gods on Mount Olympus, you have instead the sense of energy and a goddess that's responding in this case to actually natural forces. The environment. Yeah, absolutely. Just as we would stand there, very likely having the wind whip around us. And that drapery that clings to her body and creates so many creases and folds that play against light. And the different texture of her wings. The marble is really made to do so many different things in terms of texture. So here's a culture that has studied the body, celebrated the body and then is willing then to use the body for tremendous expressive force. (music playing) This video was made possible by a generous gift from Patrick Masson.