The Wintour Diaries

Maand: maart, 2013

The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The Winged Victory of Samothrace, or Nike of Samothrace, is a marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike in the form of a winged woman standing on the prow of a ship, braced against the strong wind blowing through her garments.

The work presents a pose where violent motion and sudden stillness meet. Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world.  It was discovered by a French archaeologist in 1863 on the island of Samothrace in the Aegean Sea. It had been housed in a small building at the highest point of the religious sanctuary on the island.


The statue stands 5.57 m highand stands atop the prow of a warship and was intended to commemorate some unknown naval battle. Sadly, no dedicatory inscription has ever been found, so exactly what victory the Victory was celebrating will remain a mystery.


Rembrandt’s ‘Bathsheba’

In this painting we see Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, a general of King David’s army. The king upon seeing Bathsheba bathing, had her summoned, and led her into adultery. In this, one of his major works, the artist focuses his representation of the episode on Bathesheba at her bath. She is portrayed as both victim and sinner, deeply disturbed by the royal message.

In order to marry Bathsheba and conceal his sin, David sends Uriah into battle and orders his generals to abandon him, leaving him to certain death. The letter shown in Bathsheba’s hand contains a demand from David for her to choose between fidelity to her husband or obedience to her king.

The warm harmony of the painting, in tones of gold and copper, was inspired by great Venetian painters. Rembrandt’s skill in depicting light was at its height in this becalmed, mature work. The gold brocade cloth in the background and the dazzling white of the linen provide a luminous setting.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’

The Mona Lisa, only the best known, the most visited and the most written about work of art in the world, is believed to have been painted between 1503 and 1506. It is now the property of the French Republic, on permanent display at the Louvre.


The Mona Lisa is thought to be of Lisa Gherardini, wife of a Florentine cloth merchant named Francesco del Giocondo. However, is it to be believed that Da Vinci took the completed portrait to France rather than giving it to the person who commissioned it. It was eventually returned to Italy by Leonardo’s student and heir Salai. The Mona Lisa is the earliest Italian portrait to focus so closely on the sitter in a half-length portrait.

The figure is shown in half-length, from the head to the waist, sitting in a chair whose arm is resting on balusters. She is resting her left arm on the arm of the chair, which is placed in front of a loggia. Lisa has her right hand resting on her left. Leonardo chose this gesture rather than a wedding ring to depict Lisa as a virtuous woman and faithful wife.

The Mona Lisa’s famous smile represents a visual idea of happiness suggested by the word “gioconda” in Italian. Leonardo made this notion of happiness the central motif of the portrait: it is this notion which makes the work such an ideal. The nature of the landscape also plays a role. The middle distance, on the same level as the sitter’s chest, is in warm colors. Men live in this space: there is a winding road and a bridge. This space represents the transition between the space of the sitter and the far distance, where the landscape becomes a wild and uninhabited space of rocks and water which stretches to the horizon, which Leonardo has cleverly drawn at the level of the sitter’s eyes.

In late 2005, researchers from the University of Amsterdam ran the painting’s image through “emotion recognition” computer software. The technology demonstration found the smile to be 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry, less than 1% neutral, and 0% surprised.

Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vergine delle Rocce’

This painting by Leonardo da Vinci shows the Virgin Mary (Madonna), both Christ and St. John the Baptist as a child, and the archangel Uriel within a cave. The original painting was done by Da Vinci in 1485 whilst living in Milan.

We see the Virgin Mary stretching one hand to include John the Baptist and raising the other hand above the head of Christ in a blessing. The infant St. Jogn is making a gesture of prayer to the Christ child. The Christ child in return blesses St. John. Mary’s left hand hovers protectively over the head of her son while the angel Uriel looks out and points to St. John. Normally when we see the Virtin Mary and Christ, Mary has been enthroned as the Queen of Heaven. Here, in contrast, we see Mary seated on the ground. This type of representation of Mary is referred to as the Madonna of Humility.

In 1508 a second paintin of Madonna of the Rocks was created. It is believed it was made by Da Vinci and some others artists. This painting – which contains brighter colors, but is almost identical in form – can be foud at the National Gallery of Art in London.