The Victory of Samothrace is one of the most famous masterpiece in the Louvre. A majestic statue whose wings spread and the clothes swirling in the wind are superbly highlighted by the grand staircase. If fragments of this Victory are still missing today, probably disappeared forever, it looked even less proud when it was discovered in the 19th century.
French diplomat and archaeologist, Charles Champoiseau was on mission at the Consulate of Adrianople (today Edirne, Turkey) in 1862 when he decided to undertake archaeological excavations in Samothrace, Greek island in the Aegean Sea. He knows the Emperor Napoleon III passionate about archeology and history, and wanted to find him a gift among the ruins of the very ancient sanctuary of the Great Gods. Very quickly, on April 25, 1863, the workers made an exceptional discovery: different parts of a large female statue were found, as well as fragments of wings. We deduce that the discovery was that of a Victory, Greek deity responsible for crowning the victors of a battle.
The statue arrived in puzzle in Paris and, in 1866, after a first work of restoration, the main block of the body is exposed. Alone. As for the pedestal, Champoiseau had left it there, thinking that the gray marble blocks he had found was a tomb. It was in 1875 that these blocks were again examined, and it was discovered that they actually formed the prow of a ship serving as the base for the statue. A first test was carried out in the courtyard of the Louvre Museum in 1879. Then, a complete reconstruction of the monument was decided.
The belt area was reconstituted in plaster, the right part of the bust, original, resting on the body, the left part redone in plaster, the left wing, very fragile, consolidated by a metal frame, and finally the right wing reconstituted in plaster from that of the left. Only the head, arms and feet were not reproduced.
A magnificent restoration, which gives the monument an iconic character that one could not imagine today. What prowess is this victory!