The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Front right view of the Nike of Samothrace

This colossal monument consists of a statue of a winged female figure, Nike the Greek goddess of Victory and a base in the shape of the prow of a ship. This sculpture is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of antiquity, and replicas of this winged figure were common in the ancient world.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also known as the Nike of Samothrace, was created at about 190 BC and discovered 1863 in at Samothrace (also Samothraki) a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. The sculpture had been erected to commemorate a naval victory by a Macedonian general.

Nike is wearing a long tunic of fine cloth, that falls and folds to her feet. The cloth is gathered by two belts, one hidden by the folds which hang over the hips and a second belt beneath the breast area. The garment’s flowing folds are portrayed with great skill. The fine cloth tunic is in striking contrast with the thick, deeply carved draped folds of the cloak on the back of Nike.

 Winged Victory of Samothrace, Paris 18 December 2009

The base in the form of a ship, it depicts the prow of a battleship showing oar boxes jutting out from the ship’s flanks.

In 1863, an excavation on the Greek island of Samothrace, led by an amateur French archaeologist named Charles Champoiseau, unearthed the large winged statue. Champoiseau arranged for the sculpture to be sent to Paris. It is today considered one of the Louvre’s greatest treasures and is displayed at the top of the sweeping Daru staircase at the Louvre.

Musée du louvre winged victory of samothrace

In 1939 as war threatened to descend on Paris, the  Winged Victory along with other priceless pieces, such as Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Slaves were taken away by the authorities for safekeeping to various chateaus in the French countryside.

The Greek island of Samothrace is located in the northeastern Aegean Sea. In ancient times, the island was home to a famous temple complex known as the Sanctuary of the Great Gods. In 1950, part of her right hand and other fragments were discovered by archaeologists. A plaster cast of the statue, along with a very few recently discovered fragments, are in the Samothrace Archaeological Museum.

20020800 Sanctuary of the Great Gods Palaiopolis Samothrace island Thrace Greece

Sanctuary of the Great Gods, Palaiopolis, Samothrace island, Greece

Other Ancient Greek masterpieces featured in “Joy of Museum s”include:

Essential Facts:

  • Name:                 The Winged Victory of Samothrace
  • Year:                    c. 200–190 BC
  • Type:                    Parian marble
  • Dimensions:      244 cm (96 in)
  • Discovered:       1863
  • Location:            Samothrace (also Samothraki) a Greek island, Aegean Sea
  • Museum:            Louvre, Paris, France

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“To win glory, stepping into the chariot of honoured Nike (Victory): for to one man only does the goddess grant to jump into her great carriage.” Simonides

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Photo Credit in order: 1) By karlnorling from Brooklyn, USA (Winged Victory of Samothrace) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 2) By Livioandronico2013 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons 4) By Ggia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 5) By Sergey Meniailenko from Cupertino, USA (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons