September 12, 2014

French Friday: Winged Victory

Although the Mona Lisa is likely the most celebrated work of art in Paris' Louvre museum, my favorite piece has always been The Winged Victory -- The Nike of Samothrace.  Originally mounted on the prow of a ship, the goddess is graceful and triumphant, maintaining her proud stature as she battles against the wind and water, her gown clinging to her strong feminine curves.

The 29-ton sculpture, dating from the early second century BC, was discovered in 1863 by French diplomat and archaeologist, Charles Champoiseau, on the small island of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea. The Louvre's website explains that "the sanctuary at Samothrace was consecrated to the Cabeiri, gods of fertility whose help was invoked to protect seafarers and to grant victory in war. The offering of a statue of Nike perched on a ship was a religious act in honor of these gods." 

Nike has been at home at the Musée du Louvre since 1884 with the exception her six-year exile to the Château de Valençay during the Nazi occupation of Paris. All the museums of Paris were closed on August 25, 1939, and on the night of September 3rd, Nike, Venus de Milo, and Michelangelo's Slaves, among others, fled the Louvre to safety in the Loire Valley until their triumphant return to Paris in 1945.

Although she has always been stunning, the 2,200-year-old goddess had been looking a bit weary from years of greeting visitors at the top of the Daru staircase and posing for countless pictures. Recently, Nike spent almost nine months at a "spa" being cleaned, restored, buffed, and polished. Every girl needs some pampering once and a while! (Read about her treatment here.) In July, she returned to the Louvre more beautiful than ever...

Restored Victory of Samothrace - photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
And now she's ready for her close-up.
Take the picture! Take the Picture!