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I have no idea which color process Erwin Blumenfeld used to transform Winged Victory of Samothrace, also known as Nike of Samothrace, into this glorious goddess triumphant on an effervescant Vogue cover. Possibly (see previous post) two separate exposures made on a Kodachrome sheet … blue exposure at one minute and yellow at ten seconds.

Nike’s fiery front gives way to the green of renewal ending with the prized Lapus lazuli blue of antiquity. The sculpture dates to 2nd-century B.C. assumed to be erected by a Macedonian general to celebrate his naval victory at Cyprus. It was discovered on the Greek island of Samothrace in 1863 by a French consul (and amateur archaeologist). The statue was then sent on to Paris for reconstruction.

The Hellenistic masterpiece moved to its prominent setting on the monumental Daru staircase of the Louvre in 1884 – I’ll never forget my awe of its magnificence as I approached Winged Victory of Samothrace some one-hundred years later. 

Victory, Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue, 1945

Victory, Erwin Blumenfeld for Vogue, 1945

This is not a post about Winged Victory, but it was sent with Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, to Château de Valençay in September 1939 for safekeeping throughout the war.

Earlier that year, Blumenfeld’s work appeared in French Vogue but as the war broke out he was interned in a series of camps. He must have been arrested at the start of the war. His anti-Hitler sentiment was well-known, especially for his photo-montage of Adolph Hitler superimposed over a skull. An incensed German ambassador had it removed from a 1937 Paris exhibition. 

Blumenfeld finally escaped with his family to New York in 1942 where a contract with Harper’s Bazaar, along with a studio, awaited him. The symbolism of Winged Victory of Samothrace emerging unscathed from the ravages of war, rendered as only Blumenfeld could do, is heart-warming. 

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Winged Nike of Samothrace. Unknown Sculptor c. 190 BC

Winged Nike of Samothrace. Unknown Sculptor c. 190 BC

Merry Christmas!

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