The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a second century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. Nike of Samothrace, discovered in 1863, is estimated to have been created around 190 BC. It was created to not only 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 through its features which the Greeks considered ideal beauty. Modern excavations suggest that the Victory occupied a niche in an open-air theater and also suggest it accompanied an altar that was within view of the ship monument of Demetrius I Poliorcetes (337-283 BC). Rendered in white Parian marble, the figure originally formed part of the Samothrace temple complex dedicated to the Great Gods, Megalon Theon. It stood on a rostral pedestal of gray marble from Lartos representing the prow of a ship (most likely a trihemiolia), and represents the goddess as she descends from the skies to the triumphant fleet. Before she lost her arms, which have never been recovered, Nike's right arm was raised, cupped round her mouth to deliver the shout of Victory. The work is notable for its convincing rendering of a pose where violent motion and sudden stillness meet, for its graceful balance and for the rendering of the figure's draped garments, depicted as if rippling in a strong sea breeze, which is considered especially compelling. Similar traits can be seen in the Laocoön group which is a reworked copy of a lost original that was likely close both in time and place of origin to Nike, but while Laocoon, vastly admired by Renaissance and classicist artists, has come to be seen as a too self-conscious and contrived work, Nike of Samothrace is seen as an iconic depiction of triumphant spirit and of the divine momentarily coming face to face with man. The power of the work is enhanced, to many people, by the very fact that the head and arms are missing. The statue's outstretched right wing is a symmetric plaster version of the original left one. As with the arms, the figure's head has never been found, but various other fragments have since been found: in 1950, a team led by Karl Lehmann unearthed the missing right hand of the Louvre's Winged Victory. The fingerless hand had slid out of sight under a large rock, near where the statue had originally stood; on the return trip home, Dr Phyllis Williams Lehmann identified the tip of the Goddess's ring finger and her thumb in a storage drawer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, where the second Winged Victory is displayed; the fragments have been reunited with the hand, which is now in a glass case in the Louvre next to the podium on which the statue stands. The statue now stands over a supplementary platform over the prow that allows a better contemplation but was not present in the original. The different degree of finishing of the sides has led scholars to think that it was intended to be seen from three-quarters on the left. A partial inscription on the base of the statue includes the word "Rhodhios" (Rhodes), indicating that the statue was commissioned to celebrate a naval victory by Rhodes, at that time the most powerful maritime state in the Aegean.
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