Spotlight Artwork: Nike of Samothrace

Unknown sculptor

Greece, ca. 190 BCE

Marble, approx. 8’ 1” high

Louvre, Paris.

Art Code: "Say something."


The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace,[2] is a marble Hellenistic sculpture of Nike (the Greek goddess of victory), that was created about the 2nd century BC. 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",[1] and it is one of a small number of major Hellenistic statues surviving in the original, rather than Roman copies.

The context of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is controversial, with proposals ranging from the Battle of Salamis in 306 BC to the Battle of Actium in 31 BC as the event being celebrated. Datings based on stylistic evaluation have been equally variable, ranging across the same three centuries, but perhaps tending to an earlier date.[3] For much of the 20th century, the prevailing theory, based on the works of Hermann Thiersch and Karl Lehmann, considered it a Rhodian monument dedicated following the victories at Side and Myonessos in 190 BC, and suggested that it might have been carved by the Rhodian sculptor Pythocritus.[4] However, in recent years, the reconstructions of the monument proposed by Lehmann have been shown to be false (the remains of the surrounding space that housed the Victorybelong to the Roman period), and the question of why the statue was dedicated on Samothrace, which at the time was dominated by the Greek Kingdom of Macedonia, remains unanswered.[5]

The statue is 244 centimetres (8.01 ft) high.[6] It was created not only to honor the goddess, Nike, but also to honor a sea battle. It conveys a sense of action and triumph as well as portraying artful flowing drapery, as though the goddess were descending to alight upon the prow of a ship.

(excerpt from



Essential Questions - Watch the video and read the synopsis prior to answering these questions.

1. Nike is the goddess of what? 2. List three adjectives that most effectively describe the characteristics of this sculpture. Compare these adjectives to adjectives you might use for Menkaura and His Queen. Are they similar or different? Explain. 3. List the style/time period of this sculpture. Explain how the Nike of Samothrace is the next, logical step that follows the Archaic and Classical styles.

4. How does this week's Art Code, "Say something." relate to the expressive quality of this work?

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