The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a 2nd-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory).
The winged goddess of Victory standing on the prow of a ship overlooked the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace.
The Greeks represented concepts such as Peace, Fortune, Vengeance, and Justice as goddesses at a very early date. Victory was one of the earliest of these incarnations.
The statue exemplifies the movement, gesture, and rich texturing of the finest Hellenistic sculpture.
It was created not only to honor the goddess, Nike, but to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery, as though the goddess was descending to alight upon the prow of a ship.
The Hellenistic period saw numerous naval battles between the kingdoms inherited by the successors of
Alexander the Great as they fought for control of the Aegean Sea. Battle fleets were thus a vital military
This monument was probably an ex-voto offered by the people of Rhodes in commemoration of a naval victory in the early second century BC.
The statue shows a mastery of form and movement which has impressed critics and artists since its discovery.
The statue of the Victory of Samothrace consists of several blocks of marble, carved separately and then
Overall, the work measures 5.57 m (18 feet 3 ins) in height. The statue, made of white Paros marble, stands 2.75 m (9 feet) tall, including the wings. The base (2.01 m, 6 feet 7 ins) and the pedestal (36 cm, 1 foot 2 ins) are sculpted from grey white-veined marble from the quarries of Lartos on the island of Rhodes. The darker color contrasts with the white marble of the statue, although a patina has now formed over the whole surface of the monument.
The Nike was found in April of 1863 by a French expedition led by the amateur archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, vice-consul to Adrianople (modern Edirne). Most of the remains were sent to Paris, where the reconstructed statue was installed in the Louvre in 1884 on the landing of the great Daru Stairway.
Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. H.W. Janson described it as “the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.”
It is considered one of the Louvre’s greatest treasures, and since the late 19th century it has been displayed in the most dramatic fashion, at the head of the sweeping Daru staircase.
By the autumn of 1939, war threatened to descend on Paris, so Winged Victory along with some other priceless pieces, such as Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Slaves, were whisked away for safekeeping at various cha^teaux in the French countryside.
In 1950, part of her right hand was discovered and joined with a thumb and ring finger that had been discovered by Austrian archaeoloists. Today, a plaster cast of the statue, along with a very few recently discovered fragments, are in the Samothrace Archaeological Museum.
In 2013 a restoration effort was launched to improve the appearance of the sculpture. This was the first
detailed examination of the individual pieces of the sculpture to date.
Numerous copies exist in museums and galleries around the world, one of the best-known copies stands outside the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas.
The first FIFA World Cup trophy, commissioned in 1930 and designed by Abel Lafleur, was based on the model.