Movement. Drama. Dynamism. These three words describe the essence of the work of sculpture known as the Nike of Samothrace. This image of the Greek goddess Nike demonstrates, in a powerful and impressive manner, the level of technical skill achieved by Hellenistic sculptors. The Nike of Samothrace is quite literally a tour de force of intricate carving and dynamic movement, an image of Victory captured for eternity.
For the ancient Greeks, the goddess Nike represented the personification of victory. In the case of this particular work of art, there is some speculation about the exact victory that this marble statue celebrates, but it is most likely that she is meant to commemorate naval battles that were won by the Rhodians. And while she now commands attention in the Louvre as a free-standing statue, originally the Nike was part of scene that included a ship’s prow. The beautiful goddess must have been an awe-inspiring sight, appearing to drift from the sky and land gracefully, wings still hovering in the air, draperies moving in the wind and revealing the elegant body underneath.
Today, in many ways the Nike celebrates the victory of beauty, as she symbolizes the ideals of perfection to which the ancient Hellenistic artists aspired. And the statue of the goddess still stands as a monument to a time of artistic splendor.