Nike of Samothrace

| Jani Smith| Ancient Cultures 212| | March 18, 2013| | Winged Victory Contents Introduction2 Discovering2 Hellenistic architecture and style2 Composition and atmosphere2 Genres and audience3 Conclusion4 Introduction One of the best known works of Hellenistic sculpture is Nike of Samothrace, now located in the Louvre museum in Paris. It is a demonstrative, and powerful sculpture which encapsulates everything great about Ancient Greece. The sculpture is made of Rhodian marble, stands 2. 45 meters tall and 2. 35 meters wide including its wings (Burn, 2004, p. 9). Nike’s sculptor is not well known, however it is presumed to have been constructed by the sculptor Pythokritos (Pollitt, 1986, p. 114) during the early second century BC. Discovering Nike was discovered in 1863 by the French consul and amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, in the sanctuary of the Great Gods at Samothrace where it was originally set up. Nike is traditionally associated with the victories that was obtained by the Rhodian fleet over the Antiochos III off Side and Myonnesos in 190/89 BCE (Ridgway, 2000, p. 50).
The base of the statue is in the form of a ship’s prow (Pollitt, 1986:113), and the goddess is represented as if she has just alighted on the ship, with her wings still beating and her drapery fluttering in the wind. Hellenistic architecture and style This breath taking sculpture was created in the period when baroque style developed. The characteristic features include acanthus column bases, modillion cornices, Corinthian capitals with S-shaped spirals, segmental pediments, half–pediments and curved entablatures (Bugh, 2006:171).
Baroque sculptures are well known for their powerful and immense size, the twist and turn of their body theatrically in space, frequently clad in drapery that is in motion or semi-transparent (Pollitt, 1986:114) Composition and atmosphere A sense of drama is created through the sculptor’s combination of skill at naturalism and his ability to manipulate the elements of the work. The goddess’s wings are widely spread behind her, she leans forward with her right leg and her torso tilted for balance (Burn, 2004: 90).

Her wings, legs and torso create a sequence of boldly opposing diagonals that enrich the idea or impression she gives of being in motion. She becomes a dramatic study of conflicting forces and counter-forces, as she leans forward against the wind (Ridgway, 2000:155). Her breasts, abdomen, right leg, and left thigh is revealed almost as if they were nude by the drapery that is clinging with thin, long, and uneven ripples. Not only heavy but also dynamically irregular shapes and bunches are formed by excess fabric.
Between her legs is a long, uneven arc of cloth that accentuates its motion and implies the counter-force of the wind against her beautiful curved body (Burn, 2004:90). The sculpture draws attention to this downward arc with a swath of drapery that hovers frontward from the goddess’s left hip. The drapery then collides in a V-shape with a longer swath at her pelvis. The fabric at the back soars out behind her in rigid crests. This gives an uneven effect of the drapery, the wind whipping the cloth, similar to the sea below her, into irregular peaks and troughs (Ridgway, 2000;155). The goddess’s wings are very naturalistic.
It contributes to the chaotic, uneven and energetically active tone of the statue. The goddess pushes her wings back as far as possible, and extends them to their full length (Ridgway, 2000:155). It seems as if she is mimicking the behaviour of a bird that is about to land. If one observe her wings closely, from where their crests bent to where they joint half-way, then to their outspread and the textured feathers, it looks like an enlarge copy of Zeus’s eagle’s wings (Pollitt, 1986:116). However there is a difference, which is the lacking of the regular, fan-like arrangement in a bird’s wings.
The Nike’s wings are put mysteriously arranged at odd and overlapping angles to one another, very similar to the folds of the drapery (Ridgway, 2000:155). Though it appears naturalistic, the wings deceive the sculptor’s awareness in the creation of irregular patterns to propose straining and immediate action. The wings thrown out against the real wind creates an effect of imminent landing. This naturalism and exaggerated irregularity develops a sense of actuality and urgency. With her fine detailed wings and corporeal body, this unearthly being is one of the most astonishing Hellenistic art works to be seen (Ridgway, 2000:150).
Genres and audience Hellenistic art is a marked by craft, technical virtuosity. Certain theatrical sense was one of the fundamental characteristics of this time. There was a fondness for dramatical settings, surprizing, and mysterious inner space (Pollitt, 1986:7). Hellenistic baroque sculptures of the third century wanted to immortalize the heroes’s victories. These art pieces encaptured the fortune and trails of heroes in moments of crises, designed to dazzle its audiencethrrough their sheer technical virtuosity (Pollitt, 1986:7).
The sculptures were created with a specific viewpoint in mind, most importantly to “sway the soul” (psychagogia) (Bugh, 2006:172). There is a transitory story in each sculpture and each sculpture emphasizes a specific moment. The dramatic contrasts, exaggerated and distorted forms, the heightened expressions of emotion ads on to the message conveyed by the sculptor (Fowler, 1989:32). To understand them, the viewer must recapture the primeval fascination that the artist drew on in order to endow each of his creations with their own strength and impact.
Conclusion Due to the lack of references in extant texts, the Nike of Samothrace’s political and historical background remains obscure. Looking at this master piece of art work, it almost seems as if the strong wind and waves from below are threatening to overwhelm her (the state). Nike of Samothrace’s primary purpose might have been metaphorical, acting as a “Ship of State,” guiding the state through dangerous waters (Ridgway, 2000: 153). Whatever the purpose of the sculpture was originally meant to be, it will continue to be a mysterious piece of art work.
Works Cited Bugh, G. R. 2006. The Cambridge Companion To THE HELLENISTIC WORLD. New-York, USA: Cambridge University Press. Burn, L. 2004. Hellenistic Art FROM ALEXANDER THE GREAT TO AUGUSTUS. Los Angeles, USA: The British Museum Company. Fowler, B. H. 1989. THE HELLENISTIC AESTHETIC. Wisconsin, USA: The University of Wisconsin Press. Pollitt, J. (1986). Art in the Hellenistic Age. New-York, USA: Cambridge University Press. Ridgway, B. S. 2000. Hellenistic Sculpture II, The styles of ca. 200-100B. C. Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press.

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