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Winged Victory — Greek Sculpture

Winged Victory

The sculpture was unearthed on the island of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea in 1863. It was suggested to be erected to commemorate a victory at sea. It depicts the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike, on the prow of a ship overlooking the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. The sculpture is made from different kinds of marble, and even though it is missing the arms and head, is regarded as an excellent example of Hellenistic sculpture. The draping of the clothing, and the slight angle of the figure, create a sense of movement. The style of the clothing is typical to that of the early fourth century. Today the sculpture stands atop a staircase in the Louvre in Paris. More information on the sculpture can be found on the website of the Louvre.

Questions to Ask

What do you see?

Does this sculpture look stationary or in motion? Hint — Motion, look at the clothing and angle of the figure.

What kind of feeling, do you think, was this sculpture meant to represent? Hint — power, victory, strength.

Why do you think does the figure have wings? Hint — the Greek goddess Nike was a young woman with wings.

Are there any statues or sculptures that you know of in the United States, that were erected as national symbols? Hint — Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore.

Compare the Statue of Liberty and Winged Victory. How are they the same, and how are they different? Hint — Size, Motion, Materials used (copper vs marble), Purpose.

Figureheads were often placed at the bow of a ship. Why do you think that is? Hint — Good luck, since sailors were superstitious.

Based on what you see in the sculpture, what did the goddess Nike represent, and what was her special power? She represents victory, and was a fast runner and swift flyer.

Why do you think the athletic gear company chose the name Nike for their company?

Activities for the Classroom

We have a miniature Winged Victory statue in the corner cupboard above the Art Awareness drawers.

Show the students a photo or picture of a ship with a figurehead, or talk about ship figureheads. Let the students design their own figurehead.

Let the students each draw a picture depicting victory as they see it. Ideas here could be a football player holding up a trophy, or a person with a fist in the air.

Divide the students into 3 groups. Let each group design a statue on a large piece of paper that would represent a single idea. One group can represent victory, another peace, another freedom.

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