Greek Hellenistic Sculpture

art_nike241Nike of Samothrace

The statue depicts Nike, the personification of victory, who is often acknowledged as patron of athletics in addition to her influence in battle. The statue most likely commemorates a naval battle between Rhodes and Antiochus III in the 2nd century BCE. Nike was the sister to Zelos (Rivalry), Kratos (Strength), and Bia (Force). However, it is because of her participation in the Olympian gods' battle against the giants that she gained merit amongst the Greeks who worshiped her as the goddess of victory.

Hellenistic sculpture often exuded a realism that had evolved out of the Classical period in Greece, but the sculptural style of the Nike of Samothrace reflects a unique Rhodian interpretation. The prevalent style in Rhodes exaggerated characteristics in the carving to emphasize the delicate translucent nature of the drapery and the active stance of the figure.

The Nike of Samothrace is over life-size, with exquisite drapery lightly clasping the female figure as she takes one step forward in the wind or she can be imagined as alighting onto the prow of a ship. When she was discovered, her head and arms were already missing, leaving us with multiple possibilities for the original position of the arms and head. Her prominent location within the renowned Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace, an island in the northern Aegean Sea, ensured that all visitors saw her. While an exact date for the sculpture has yet to be determined, the naval victory would date the statue to the early 2nd century, whereas the style and drapery treatment suggest an earlier date.The Nike of Samothrace is a remarkable example ofa carved marble sculpture seemingly in continual movement.

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