Nike of Samothrace

Believed to be one of the most famous works of art of the Greek antiquity, the statue of the winged Nike of Samothrace is currently housed in one of the most important museums in the world, the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is considered a sample of Hellenistic art and it depicts the winged goddess Nike. It is suggested that the statue, which according to archaeologists was a marble complex with the bow of a ship, was dedicated to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods of Samothrace, by the winners of some battle of the time. Both the vowel and the sculptor have not been confirmed yet by archaeological research, but there are two most prevalent versions: one says that it was dedicated by Dimitrios Poliorkitis (337-283 BC) when he defeated the fleet of Ptolemy off the coast of Cyprus around 290 BC and the second that it was dedicated by the Rhodians after 191 BC, when they defeated Antiochus III of Syria in a naval battle off the coast of Sidi.
The excavation
Nike of Samothrace was found in the northern part of the island, at the archaeological site of Paleopoli, which was in ancient times the Sanctuary of the Great Gods, the religious center where the Cabeiri Mysteries were held. During the initial excavations on the island, in 1863, the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau and his team brought to light a female marble torso. Reports from that day say that it was on April 15, 1863, when the excavation was in the middle of a gorge. Eventually, a Greek worker yelled at Champoiseau “Sir, we have found a woman!”. It was the torso of the statue of Nike of Samothrace. A total of 118 pieces of the original statue were discovered during the excavations.
It is estimated that a devastating earthquake in the 6th AD century was the main cause of the collapse. Among the pieces discovered on Samothrace are the marble left wing, a large piece of the torso from below the chest to the foot, another piece of the upper torso, the right palm, but also parts of the bow of the ship on which the goddess stood.
In the 19th century, when the statue was discovered, Samothrace was still under Turkish rule. Champoiseau, the archaeologist who discovered Nike of Samothrace, got an approval from the Turkish state and moved the statue to France. The statue arrived at the Louvre on May 11, 1864 and two years later it was first exhibited in its original form: the assembly and its restoration was completed in 1884. On the outbreak of the Second World War, the French transferred the Nike of Samothrace to a safe location, and it returned to the halls of the Louvre in 1950.
The statue complex of Nike of Samothrace
A complete representation of the statue and the bow of the ship it stood on, indicates that it was the winged goddess Nike represented at the moment she lands on the ship and thus barely stepping aboard. Probably she is at the same time announcing the victory of the votive, so one arm had this particular form or holding the wreath for the winner.
The two wings – which consisted of two large piece of marble and strongly influences the balance of the statue – and the bow of the ship gave the complex the dimensions of 3.28 meters high and 5.58 meters wide.
The statue of Nike of Samothrace was crafted from white Parian marble, while the ship from Rhodian. The complex dates back to between 220 and 190 B.C., during the Hellenistic period. The artists of the period used to complete their work in sections, in the end putting the different parts together in order to compose the final work.
It is also estimated that the Nike of Samothrace was intended to be exposed with the left side up to the viewer, at a ¾ profile and therefore the left side of the complex is crafted in more detail.
From 1866 until today, the Nike of Samothrace is exhibited in the Louvre in Paris. It is mounted on a base, which is mounted on a marble ship bow. The right wing of the statue, of which only very few pieces survived, has been reconstructed by the scientists of the Museum, as a “mirror” image of the left wing.
The Winged Nike of Samothrace
The famous winged Nike of Samothrace is one of the three winged Nike statues discovered during the excavations of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island. One of the other two is exposed in Vienna, where it was transferred by Austrian archaeologists who discovered it, while the third is exposed in the Archaeological Museum of Samothrace, discovered by the pair of American archaeologists, the Lehmanns, in 1949 and is also a replica of the original Nike of Samothrace of the Hellenistic years.


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