Images and sculptures of Nike have been found at all the major sanctuaries in Greece.
Her presence in antiquity is almost obligatory it seems.
Above: the Temple of Athena Nike (right on the propylaea). Photography © John Goodinson.
The museum at Delphi displays a reasonably sized section of the wing from a Nike statue, protected under glass,
that retains most of the painted detail. This fragment gives us a fascinating insight into the use of colour on
statues and temples throughout classical Greece. They were never left plain or unadorned and the palette
was extensive (slides 1-3).
At the National Archaeological Museum in Athens Nike is found in a striking pose - holding a partridge rather
than a dove. The partridge is a symbol of the healing power of Asklepios, and this statue was created by the
sculptor Timotheos around 380 BC. The museum also displays a frieze showing Nike leading a bull to sacrifice.
The resemblance to one of the parapet friezes of the Athena Nike temple on the Acropolis at Athens is striking,
and it would seem that the sculptor has been inspired by the original to such an extent that he has almost
copied it complete (slide 6).
Nike’s image at Epidaurus, again by Timotheos, is dramatic and imposing. In the museum at Epidaurus it can
be found quite high up on the wall, sadly only the upper torso and a partial wing survives. But even these
fragments give us an idea of how this piece was a tour-de-force of action. The original must have been truly
impressive.This great sculpture adopts the new style of representation that gained much ground, and later
of course revolutionised Renaissance art as well as Greek sculpture of the time. The style is often referred
to as the wet-style, and differed completely from the previously staid and respectful, almost asexual,
style that was used before (slide 9-10).
The wet style captures a moment in action, movement in stone, in a way that celebrates the physical aspects
of the gods and the incredible artistic ability and achievement of the artists. The style is much celebrated
in the genre of photojournalism today, with high-speed shutters and long zoom lenses – it is however,
so much more impressive that artists were able, two and a half thousand years ago to see, retain
and translate the moment without relying on the high speed camera.
Above: National Archaeological Museum in Athens.
All photography: © 2011 John Goodinson