This statue of Nike was discovered on the island of Samothrace in 1863 by archaeologist Charles Champoiseau, the French consul at Adrianople, and his excavation team. The sculpture had been shattered over the centuries and was found in 118 pieces (head and arms not included). It was reassembled at the Louvre museum in Paris, France, where it is exhibited today. The right hand was found (by Greeks) in 1950 and given "on permanent loan" to the Louvre. Unfortunately, there is not, as yet, a right arm to which it can be attached. Other fragments of the right hand are in the posession of the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna.

The level of detail on Winged Victory of Samothrace, as it is officially known, is astonishing. Nike's drapery is plastered to her body as if she were soaked to the skin; the cloth (marble, of course, but instantly believable as textile) whorled and warped and wrapping her curves. She leans into the wind. Her powerful wings are tense and ready to take flight; the feathers have retained a surprising definition considering the years.

I encountered Victory during my one very cursory visit to the Louvre, as I was dashing to see the Mona Lisa before closing time. I was (and am) largely ignorant of the Louvre and its collection, so it was something of a surprise to round a corner and be confronted by this beautiful and imposing piece of statuary. It's displayed all by itself at the junction of several stairways (the Escalier Daru), towering over everyone passing by. The curator who placed the statue did a fine job of evoking what it must have looked like atop the Greek cliff where it originally stood.

Winged Victory of Samothrace may have been sculpted to commemorate the Rhodian conquest of Antiochus III, circa 222-187 B.C.E., but it is not known who the sculptor was or when, exactly, it was done.

I dunno, but it's WAY famous, dude!

Quote heard at the Louvre in 1988.

While traveling extensively via the youth hostel route, my partner and I noticed two blond California surfer types staring at the statue of the Victory of Samothrace which loomed from a landing on the stairs leading up from the main floor of the museum. This is the verbatim exchange between the two youths:

Surfer 1: Wow! What is THAT?

Surfer 2: I dunno, but it's WAY famous, dude!

As this phrase (no doubt) percolates through the popular consciousness as of now, find here its initial historic debut.

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