The Story of Winged Victory
One of the most celebrated sculptures in the world, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also known as the Nike of Samothrace, is prominently displayed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. In Greek Mythology, Nike was a goddess who personified victory. Today, this beautiful 10’ tall marble sculpture signifies no less. But the path that eventually led her to the stony pedestal upon which she now stands was not without obstacles.An unknown sculptor was commissioned during the second century B.C. to carve The Winged Victory to celebrate a significant naval battle and victory. She was created to look as if she was descending from the heavens to meet the triumphant fleets as they returned from their hard-fought battles. Over time, she fell into decay, and then into the ocean where she slept for hundreds of years. She was eventually recovered in the late 1800s, but time had taken its toll. Victory’s arms, once raised to her mouth in celebratory shout, were never recovered, nor was her head—a tragedy, by all accounts. And yet, to many, the personal meaning of Victory is enhanced by the very fact that these components are missing.
In life, is it any different? The price of battle is steep. We all make mistakes. Yet the scars we bear can, and perhaps should, be a reflection of the battles we have won; and in this there is honor and beauty. But we must protect our victories once they have been won.
During World War II, Hitler and the Nazi elite made a point to steal art they coveted, or destroy those pieces made by artists not of German descent. On September 3, 1939, as Louvre staff members gathered on the staircase surrounding the Winged Victory of Samothrace, they were informed that Germany had declared war. Invasion seemed, and indeed was, inevitable, as was the chance the Nazis would ransack the Louvre. Of Victory, cried the curator, “I will not see her return.” Still, the order was given to remove the art, no matter the cost. Victory was painstakingly lowered onto a ramp then carried away to safety. It was as if she was again descending from the heavens. And when the war was over, she did return! What price are you willing to pay to protect your victory?