Winged Victory of Samothrace / poem


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Like JennaW's statue of Cupid and Psyche, it's at the Louvre.

The statue's pedestal is a ship's prow. It's thought to have been commissioned in honor of an ancient naval victory.

Her body's badly battered

But her soul has not been shattered,

And she strides across the ocean

With a bold triumphal motion,

With wings spread out behind her

In a feathery reminder

That the power of joyous flight

Belongs to those who fight

For what is good and true.

When victory comes to you

Your heart will rise with pride

And you'll feel those wings inside.

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That is another winner. Your call in the poem to focus on the wings as a spiritual metaphor for striving enhances contemplation of the statue - strongly enhances it.

I also started connecting water and air in my mind as spiritual values. Different planes of subconscious, flying through water, swimming through air, doing the impossible through action, using a technique for one medium to rule another, the same exaltation everywhere, bursting free...

Circles within circles...

(Another time maybe...)

I never knew much about this particular statue, so I looked it up. There is a succinct and interesting Wikipedia article on the Winged Victory of Samothrace. 250 BC to 180 BC. Also, parts of it were discovered and added after it was originally found (although the head and arm remain missing. There's other interesting stuff.

In one of the first impassioned clamors for the irrational freedom to create junk for art (and a precursor to post-modern junk), it is extremely fitting from an Objectivist perspective that Marinetti mentioned this heroic statue. From the article:

When Filippo Tommaso Marinetti issued his Futurist Manifesto in 1908, he chose to contrast his movement with the supposedly defunct artistic sentiments of the Winged Victory: "A screaming automobile that seems to run on grapeshot is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace."

Also from the same article:

This statue was a favorite of Frank Lloyd Wright and he used reproductions of it in a number of his buildings, including Ward Willits House, Darwin D. Martin House and Storer House.



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Photographs don't do justice to a three-dimensional work of great art. You have to go to Paris to stand in front of it which I did for over an hour without being able to tear myself away. I have never seen a work of art of the awesome titanic power of the Winged Victory. I never knew anything could exceed the power of Michelangelo's David. Or inspire me more. Until I saw this.

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Michael, thank you. As regards air and water, I wonder if the sculptor thought of wings as corresponding to sails.

Phil, I agree, it's best to see it in real life. It has a most dramatic setting in the Louvre.

By the way, here is somebody's idea of what the original pose was when she still had her head and arms:

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The Phoenix one, as photographed, is -extremely- disappointing to me, arms and head or no (and doesn't really look like the original). Reminds me of Roman copies of Greek originals, pale and sunless imitations, lacking conviction, which are all over...without the detail, the subtlety, the original emotional force. I get more of a feel of a timid, Christian angel...but I don't suppose the Phoenix authorities would allow me to crawl up to the cupola to get a better look.

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Phil, I agree, that Phoenix piece is uninspired. I merely thought it was intellectually interesting as a rough speculation of where the arms might have gone. But spiritually it looks like it belongs on a badly designed Mormon temple.

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with Phil about seeing Winged Victory in person. YOu can approach it by ascending a long staircase, which forces one's head to be thrown back (a favorite Rand expression) and predisposes one to feelings of exaultation. [in a similar view, the best approach to the David is through the comparitively dark corridor which features a group of unfinished work by the man himself. A photo doesn't do Winged Victory justice, but then, why should it? I'm reminded of a remark that Jacob Bronowski made in the ASCENT OF MAN which I will now paraphrase. The photo does not so much FIX the object as allow us to EXPLORE it. This photo is a shot from a certain angle, an angle one might (or might not) have missed when seeing it in person. The same goes for John's poem. It is another exploration of this art work; a work that cannot be exhausted. I still don't put it up there with the David, which I've seen in person three times, but it's up there. Especially if by "up there" one means "reduces Fred Seddon to tears."

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Fred, choosing between the Winged Victory and the David is like being forced to choose between my two favorite movies.

One problem for people who want to see WV: When I visited the Louvre you were led to it from behind and on the same level, which smashes the drama of the long, upward staircase and the ability to see the whole thing as a unity and from the front (not a closeup of its butt). This was '95 and I had to walk all the way to the other end of the Louvre and go down a level to see it the right way. It's sort of like being dumped at the base of the Statue of Liberty Empire State Building and immediately entering the elevator, never having seen the whole thing from a distance first and gradually approaching.

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Another thing about these two sculptures. Life size is close to 6 feet tall. Winged Victory and David are each at least -triple- life size. They are unstintingly titanic, a shout of pride and assertiveness to the world.

In scale, boldness, drama, heroic presence, they are the Atlas Shruggeds of the art world.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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