Winged Victory, one of the world's greatest works of art, resides at the Louvre, one of the world's great museums. The ancient Greek statue without peer once guarded the sanctuary of the Great Gods on one of the islands in the Aegean Sea. Today, it's one of the treasures of the Louvre Museum, among such peerless works of art as the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo paintings, and riches once owned by French royalty.
Fully named Winged Victory of Samothrace, this fine example of Hellenistic sculpture has been a part of the Louvre collection since the 1860s. It was after it was unearthed on the small island called Samothrace by Charles Champoiseau, who served as the French Vice-Counsel to Adrianople (which is modern-day Turkey.)
Winged Victory at the Louvre depicts the goddess Nike, the personification of victory. This winged woman stands of the forward part of a ship, braving the wind and the elements. Her right hand once cupped her mouth, leaving you to wonder what she would have been announcing. As with many antiquities like the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace is no longer complete. Even missing the head, the statue is a striking piece to behold.
Like the Last Supper from Leonardo da Vinci, Winged Victory was created for a purpose not simply for art's sake. While the purpose has been lost to the march of time, the sculpture was likely an offering to the gods, a celebration of a Naval victory, or both. The sanctuary where the statue once stood was dedicated to the Cabeiri, fertility gods who watched over seafarer and granted victory for the battle.
As you look closely at Winged Victory at the Louvre, you'll see that half of the statue has a lot more detail than the other. The sculptor, an expert in the art of Greek sculpture, wanted the statue to be viewed from one side. In its glory days, Winged Victory of Samothrace was perched in a rock cleft dug into a hillside overlooking the grand theater. Perhaps she was standing in a pool of water, giving the appearance that the boat was floating in from a grand victory.
As you stand in front of the statue, admire the intricate carving of gray marble, you can imagine what the world was like when Winged Victory was a landmark of this ancient island. In light of the materials used and the content, scholars suggest the statue was created by the warriors of Rhodes around 190 B.C. It's not impossible that she would have been created to mark the memory of the Battle of Myonnisos or a victory against the fleet of Syria's Antiochus III.
Winged Victory at the Louvre is just one of the amazing Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities in the collection. One of the oldest departments in the museum, some of the works were acquired even before the French Revolution. The sculptures, bronzes, vases, and other treasures span the millennia from the Neolithic era to the year 600, after Rome fell to barbarians.
Winged victory and its ancient counterparts are included on many thematic tours, which kick off from the visitor center under the Louvre Pyramid. These self-guided trails help to mast the vast collections manageable in one visit, whether you want to focus on the highlights from the collection or follow a certain theme.