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One of the most majestic sculptures ever created is the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Though the figure is missing both its head and arms it has long been considered to be one of the most moving and inspirational works in the world.
The motion of both the wings and the dress billowing in the wind give the work an awe-inspiring element.
It was discovered in 1863 by French archaeologist, Charles Champoiseau and within 20 years was brought to the Louvre museum in Paris. It was found on the Greek island of Samothrace, and is thought to have been created around 200-190 BC. Sculptural poses are typically filled with movement, the figures created showed a wide range of real people rather than just focusing on the idealized beauty of the earlier Greek Classical age.
The Winged Victory, or Nike, was created to stand on the prow of a ship, also sculpted in marble. The Nike is in an off-white parian marble and the ship in a darker gray lartos marble which came from Rhodes. The Nike herself is just over 8 feet tall and her place on the ship's prow adds to the height of the work.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the Nike was the Goddess of victory, she was shown as being a winged figure who would fly down from Mount Olympus. While the Winged Victory of Samothrace is the most well-known depiction, as well as being the largest, many smaller scale figurines and statues of Nike were sculpted in the ancient world. The main characteristics of the goddess were wings and usually a sense of landing or alighting.
This inspirational work is thought to have commemorated a naval victory, though there are a few theories on which navy and which battle. One thought was that since the base is from marble found in Rhodes and their army was renowned, it was a Rhodian naval victory. Another theory is that it was related to a Macedonian victory since stylistically it was closer to Macedonian art.