Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Nike, or Winged Victory of Samothrace, Pythokritos of Rhodes, 250 - 180 BCE

We lived in Paris when I was 15 and visited the Louvre several times. Like any kid, I was struck by innumerable scenes and images, but clearly the most powerful, dramatic, and effective image for me was the Winged Victory from Samothrace, which stood at the top of a flight of stairs and looked for all the world as if she was flying, or perched on the prow of a ship, represented as the base. A stiff wind seems to ripple through her garments and she seems to push against it, thoroughly embraced by its pervasive touch. She must be enjoying this, I thought, as we would enjoy the swirl of breezes on a boat or during a storm. We are meant to share her exhilarating sensation of sensorial transport.

Of course, she has wings - marvelous, magnificent wings – that look truly as if they could carry her body, as they apparently just have, through the wind, guiding her as she alights on earth, or perhaps on a building, or even a boat. The wings extend out back as her breasts push forward, providing both balance and momentum to the upper torso.

The sculptor uses shadows effectively, enhancing the swirling folds of the garment and the play of light as it ripples across the surface.

She was used as the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy, the Rolls Royce hood ornament.