University of Kansas, Lippincott Hall

Nike of Samothrace

Nike (Victory) of Samothrace (reduced size)

Modern plaster replica (given to the Wilcox by the KU Department of French and Italian) at a about 1/2 scale of a Greek original of ca. 190 BCE (original is just over 8 ft tall). According to the small metal oval in the back, the cast was purchased from the Caproni Bros. cast company of Boston probably in 1885.

The original statue, of Rhodian marble, stood at the top of the theater in the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothrace. Nearby was found an inscription that bears the name of the sculptor Pythokritos of Rhodes. Perhaps the inscription names the sculptor of the Nike. The statue was discovered in 1863 by the French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau and sent to the Louvre. Today, along with the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa (Ridgway 1990:150), it is one of the biggest attractions at the Louvre. The statue represents Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory, alighting on the prow of a ship. With the wind pressing her garments against her body, and her wings swept back, she looks as if she is leading the ship into battle and victory. Although the arms and head are missing, the goddess was originally believed to have been blowing a victory "paean", or a hymn of triumph, on a trumpet. However, both hands have been recovered and both were found empty. It is possible that the Victory may have commemorated a Rhodian naval victory ca. 190 BC of the citizens of the island of Rhodes over King Antiochos of Syria.

Select Bibliography: Victory of Samothrace
  • M. Bieber. The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age (rev. ed.). New York 1955, pp. 124-6.
  • B.S. Ridgway. Hellenistic Sculpture, II. Madison 1990, pp. 150-4.
  • R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Sculpture. New York 2001, pp. 71-9.

Featured item:

Duck Cup

3D Model of Duck-CupThe Wilcox Museum’s website is now offering three-dimensional digital models of several objects in the collection. See our new 3D Imaging page under "The Collection" tab!  

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