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Nike of Samothrace

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Nike is a Greek mythology for goddess of victory. She was the daughter of the Titan Pallas and the River Styx. It is argued that Nike also had brothers and sisters who included:  Zelos which meant rivalry, Kratos, which meant strength, and Bia, which also meant force. Nike, Greek word for victory, helped Zeus win a battle against the Titans from the Mountain of Olympus(Stewart). The ultimate god decided to honor Nike and gave her a title as the goddess of victory. Since then this image has been prominent in  all of  the  Greek art and traditionally  it  has  been  associated  with  victory  in  athletics, war and even contests like those  ones of poetry. The presence and availability of Nike brought a spirit of celebration and invocation of the arête, which is also the physical and moral excellence men and gods. As a goddess and guru of war she was seen standing next to Ares, Athena and Zeus. As  a  goddess of contests she is portrayed to adorn the winner with the wreath and sash of a victor. Nike is also known as the Winged Victory.

History and historical significance

Nike was created in around 190-200 BCE though the exact date is not well known. It was later discovered in 1863 by Charles Champoiseau on  an  Island called Samothrace, which is on the Northwest Aegean, broken into various pieces. Nike’s sculptor is not well known, though  it is presumed to have been constructed by the  Macedonian General Demetrius Poliorcetes between 295 and 289 BC(Martin,2011). This, as Martin says, was after he had had a victory at Cyprus. Though not well proven, some ceramic evidence has revealed and shown that the pedestal might have been set up in 200BC. Some scholars and experts also suggest that this could not be the exact time, dating there’s to be either earlier than 250 BC or later than 180.This strong figure is in the form of a lady who has wings standing on a ship’s prow, and bracing against all the strong and heavy wind that is blowing through her garments. It is mostly associated with the victory which Rhodians had against Antiochus III the Great as commanded by Hannibal.

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Architectural Analysis

The original architectural construction of Nike is that it was made as a bow in form of a sculpted war ship, its Victorious stance being represented as that of General Demetrius Poliorcetes. This sculpture stands at about 2.45 meters tall and 2.35 meters wide including all the wings. The way this sculpture has been designed, is that of showing and depicting victory, might and strength. The original need and intentions of the sculptor has been assumed as wanting to depict it as a sign of might and victory, hence its eminence strongly represents this. As discussed above, this sculpture stands in form of a woman braced ready for victory. It was discovered standing on a niche of a rock overlooking and observing the theater  of  Great gods in Samothrace Sanctuary. Despite its viciously and seriously damaged structure, it depicts a classic example of Hellenistic architecture and hence considered to be a Hellenistic Sculpture(Spivey).

The evidence of Hellenistic effect being depicted on this sculpture is shown due to its folds that are composed of transparent clothes which are observed to be pressed against its body, and seen to be rippling against the strong and heavy winds as it descends from heaven with  the wings flapping upon the air. The body which is slightly twisted with wings that widespread and the garments that are billowing exude a spiraling effect which concurs with the true and real Hellenistic Sculpture. This sculpture, together with another one called Venus de Milo, though does not form the basis of this discussion, form a perfect and classic example of ancient Greek sculpture. This is because they have been known for their creativity, fineness, and naturalism including all the fine and smooth rendering garments on the bodies of human beings that always show and exhibit suppleness of the  form.

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It is distinctly made from Parian Marble( Dickins). Its twisting pose, drapery which is lively, and a dramatic setting seems  to  create such a dynamic style and composition that mostly, is commonly combined with Pergamon’s art. Despite the fact that it had stood as an epitome and epicenter of victory, it had no arms when it was discovered. However, when one arm was discovered in 1950, some experts say that the discovery of the arm showed that the goddess never held a victory wreath, which has been depicted to be its attribute. However this has not been sufficiently substantiated.

The architecture of this sculpture has helped estimate the period it was constructed. Experts have been able to estimate its date on the basis of style and similarities as compared to other Pergamon’s sculptures. The pottery that was collected from the area where this sculpture was found dates to a close connection with the Rhodes Island and the last victory which it won is dated back to 190 BCE, when the Seleucides were defeated by the Rhodian Navy, hence if the Rhodians constructed the Nike as a form of thanks for this great victory, then experts easily secure this date. Furthermore, its perfect figure creates an effect which spirals in various directions. This has been achieved due to the oblique angles the wings create and the way the left leg has been placed, which is then emphasized with the clothing that is seen blowing through its legs.

The female body is observed due to the transparency of  the drapery that seems to be wet, which depicts the classical manner of sculptures of that century while the cord worn that has been worn beneath the breasts reveals clothing style of that century (Walter). To date, the Nike of Samothrace has been erected on a grand Daru staircase of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Being among the well- known sculptures from antiquity, she depicts a classic and innovative use both theatric drama and creativity, all which are qualities of Hellenistic period. Nike has been seen as an epicenter that depicts triumphant spirit despite the fact that it lacks arms and legs. At the base of the sculptures there is an inscription with the word ‘Rhodes’ which shows that it was inscripted  to honor Rhode’s naval victory which was the most powerful and greatest maritime state of the time.

Economic significance and inspiration

Nike of Samothrace has been endowed as the most celebrated sculpture of its type in time. At Louvre in Paris, which is the national museum in France that parks the Nike, has  recorded a lot of prizes marked on it. Its amazing design has attracted the attention of many a people, its outstanding presentation mixed with grandeur and absolute theatricality has earned the museum a lot of revenue and continues to be admired by many despite the fact that it misses head and arm.

It is viewed to be the greatest sculptures of Hellenistic period that still survive and from all of that era. Its triumphant state has attracted critics and other artists since it was discovered. It has been loved for its complex naturalism and the draped garments that are so fine rendering. At Louvre, it has been considered the most precious sculpture. It has been displayed in some of the greatest dramatic fashions in the world. Its mere loss of head is not regretted is not necessarily regretted but it even makes it more supernatural.

Other artists have copied this statue and have been mounted in various international and national museums around the world. In Caesars Palace casino of Las Vegas, one of the best known copies to have been created out of the inspiration of Nike stand here.

Another good example where it attracted attention to the world is in 1930, when the first FIFA World Cup Trophy, was designed on its model by Abel Lafleur. Frank Lloyd Wright, who was an American architect, interior designer and writer employed its model in more than 500 projects he designed, a classic example of which include the Ward Willitis House, Storer  House and the Darwin D. Martin House. Gunnar Ekelof, ones a Swedish Poet, included Nike in his poem ‘Samothrace’ and made it the central image which he wrote and composed in 1941.Nike is made as a symbol of fight against Nazism in the poem.

A character in the novel, ‘Bored of the Rings’, is seen to destruct another character and points to the sky saying “Look! The Winged of Samothrace”. The character meant that all the fight their enemies had against them, they were going to emerge as the most victorious. It has also been known that its second largest replica is hoisted at Calvary Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the United States which is presumed to stand at 8'1" high.

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