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Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace Essay

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Updated: Dec 18th, 2021

During the Hellenistic period of Greek Art the classical rules were partially abandoned, giving freedom to experimentation. Marquand (2009) noted that Hellenistic sculptures admired the beauty of the female body; it is noticeable in the sculptures of Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace, the most popular works belonging to this period. Emphasizing the religious values, sculptors used the secular viewpoint in the works.

Marble was used in both of the sculptures, as it was one of the most popular materials of that period. Both of them are dated the second century BC and reflect the innovations that appeared during this period combined with the features of the classical traditions. Blowing clothes element was one of the Hellenistic period innovations, used in both of the works. Both of the figures are positioned in three-dimensional space in the spiral composition, their bodies are small-breasted and partially naked which was characteristic of the period. Hellenistic sculptors experimented with the posing of the figures, attempting to express the inner emotions of people. For example, in the pose of the Winged Victory of Samothrace , also called the Nike of Samothrace, motion and unexpected stillness meet. Cosgrove (2004) admitted that “the Winged Victory was a symbolic figure held sacred within the temple of the Samothracian Mysteries”(p. 160). This sculpture was meant to commemorate one of the naval victories of the population of Rhodes, and Nike’s clothes are billowing in the wind, reminding of the sea that was supposed to surround the goddess. The pose of Venus de Milo is difficult to interpret, it is even more mysterious than Nike is. Tarbell (2007) noted that “greater uncertainty prevails as to the proper restoration of the statue” (p. 110). Some pieces of the sculpture and its attributes are missing and it complicates its identification and interpretation. The researchers may only surmise whether the initial statue was holding an apple, a crown or a mirror, in which she was admiring her reflection.

The main contradiction of both of the sculptures is in the combination of goddesses features with realistic depiction of the human bodies. The sculptures are in proportion to the female body. Their faces are still as the goddesses’ faces are supposed to be, while their bodies are as beautiful as the bodies of the earthly women. Curving lines and spiral composition produce the impression that the figures hardened for a single moment, but are going to start moving in a second. The statues can be observed from any side, this innovation was one more contribution of Hellenistic period. Visitors of the Louvre can admire the beauty of the ancient goddesses and interpret the authors’ intentions in their own way. There is a lot of space for the work of imagination, as Nike is decapitated, Venus lacks several elements as well. It is difficult to judge whether the reconstructions of the sculptures were successful, but at the present moment Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo astonish the observers by their ancient mystery, though their initial images are lost in the centuries.

These works of art fit into the time period of the second century DC combining all the main innovations of Hellenistic sculpture with the classical traditions of Greek sculpture. The spiral composition, admiration of the partially naked female body and meaningful poses of the goddesses implement all the main characteristics of the period.

Reference List

Consgrove, E. M.(2004) Letters to a Disciple 1935. Gerson B. Deutsch Incorporated.

Marquand, A. (2009) A Textbook of the History of Sculpture. Bibliolife Reproduction Series.

Tarbell F.B.(2007) A History of Greek Art. BiblioBazaar. Web.

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IvyPanda. "Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace." December 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/venus-de-milo-and-winged-victory-of-samothrace/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace." December 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/venus-de-milo-and-winged-victory-of-samothrace/.

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