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The winged Victory

Wed, 12/02/2014 - 14:35 -- Laura
Brescia, Vittoria alata

It is a feminine figure, slightly turning her body to the left; she is wearing a cloth pinned on her shoulders (kiton) and a mantle (himation) wrapped around her legs.
The statue was realised with the technique known as investment casting and is composed of at least 30 parts cast separately and later soldered together. Just like in portraits, the finish touch is given with pointed tools that define traits neatly. With the technique of damascening, silver has been woven to her hair. 
It must have been created in the second half of the 1st century AD by a professional workshop specialised in bronze art in the north of Italy.
The position of the figure, with a leg slightly raised and the arms projected out, can be explained with the presence – in its original form – of some attributes that helped with the identification of the subject. The foot probably rested upon the helm of Mars, the god of war, and the left arm probably carried a shield, also supported by the flexed leg. On the shield were carved with the right hand the name and res gestae of the victor (the Romans used to portray the goddess of Victory with these characteristics.)

The statue was dedicated to the goddess probably by an important person to give thanks (ex voto) for a successful military campaign and might have been exhibited inside the temple or in a public building around the city, possibly the Capitolium itself (on its own, or also side by side with the male figure whose name was carved on the shield of Victory).
The iconography of the winged Victory is well documented in the history of Roman art, especially with reference to coins and figures in relief from the Imperial age. The typology constitutes a variation of a statue from the end of the 4th century AD, the Capuan Venus, who is caught while looking at her self-naked self in the mirror she is holding in her hands. This model has been reproduced since then in numerous statues from the beginning of the 2nd century BC. 
Later on, the iconographic scheme of Venus was transformed into Victory by adding the cloth and wings, substituting the mirror with the shield on which the divinity carves the name of the victor. This variation was particularly appreciated from the 1st century AD onwards. The Victory of Brescia, maybe originally conceived without wings (added at a later time), is one of the most well known examples of such subject.
The statue, discovered on July 20th 1826 during the excavations carried out by the members of the Ateneo di Scienze, Lettere e Arti  (Academy of Fine Arts) in Brescia, can be considered the most important piece among those collected from the Capitolium, and one of the very few examples of bronze statues well preserved, the only one existing in the north of Italy. When the Christian religion became official in the Empire, all pagan symbols were destroyed and, in the case of bronze artefacts, melted. In order to preserve the Victory from such fate, the statue was hidden in an empty cavity of the temple, which is the reason why we can see it today. 
From 1826 on, the fame of the Victory in Brescia had been spreading all around Europe, so much so that Napoleon III, who was staying in Brescia before the Solferino battle in June 1859, wanted to visit the Museo Patrio (Archaeological and historical museum). He was so impressed by the beauty of the statue that he asked to have a copy of it, now exhibited at the Louvre. Thankful for this gift from Brescia, the Emperor donated to the city two monumental Sèvres porcelain vases bearing the portraits of Napoleon III and his wife, now on show at the Museo del Risorgimento in the city.
Some old pictures present the statue with a helm lying under her left foot and a large round shield in her hands: these were integrations, probably plaster works, suggested by the researcher Giovanni Labus and inserted in the statue around 1838. It is not known until when these additions existed, they probably got lost during the transfer of the statue on June 13th 1940 because of an air raid alarm, when the Winged Victory was transferred to the park of Villa Fenaroli in Seniga (in the south of Brescia) to be safeguarded.
At the end of the war the statue returned to the Capitolium museum; since June 1998 the Winged Victory has been on show inside the monumental complex of Santa Giulia.

Winged Victory
Bronze statue
Height: cm 191
Second half of 1st century AD