The AP Art History curriculum is commonly nicknamed “the 250” because there are 250 “images” that students must intimately know before their exam. However, “the 250” is a misnomer because if you were to count every individual image it would be closer to 400. The Acropolis is one of those lovely “images.” The Acropolis, yes the WHOLE thing, is listed as one image but of course it isn’t just one image. It’s more like 6:
- The Acropolis plan
- Plaque of the Ergastines, from the Parthenon
- Helos, horses, and Dionysus (Heracles?), from the Parthenon
- Temple of Athena Nike
- Victory Adjusting her Sandal, Temple of Athena Nike
So obviously for sanity’s sake I am splitting these up into their own blog posts, and even then I am going to leave out a lot of the more high-brow academic information for clarity. Buckle up!
Art Historical Background
To start off with, who is the goddess Nike? You mean, the athletics company? Well actually, those two ideas ARE in fact related. Nike was the Greek name for the goddess of victory; the Romans called her “Victoria” which is where we get the word “victory” today. Cool huh? And isn’t one purpose of good athletic gear is to help you. . .win. . ? Brilliant. 🙂
Victory is such as obvious thematic choice for the Acropolis, as it was built to celebrate the combined Greek victory over the Persians. Read more about that in the overview blog post on the Acropolis HERE.
This frieze was part of a series of images of Nike that appeared on the exterior parapet wall around the temple of Athena Nike (now housed in the Acropolis Museum). The one from “the 250” is the one to the far left: Victory (Nike) adjusting her sandal. It was selected for it’s sheer exquisite carving skill, much better appreciated in person, as always. The fabric cascades over Nike in a “wet drapery” style (pretty self explanatory I think) that showcases the curves of the body underneath while also deliberately showing her movement. Nike is shown with wings, but it is much harder to see in this relief image, the curved lines to the left and right of her shoulders are the wings.
It is such a simple act, putting on a sandal, but the artist has balanced Nike beautifully and gracefully on one foot, torse bent over to adjust the other. This piece is so sensual; the slip of the fabric off her shoulder, the clinginess of the drapery on her abdomen and legs. The Khan Academy video (linked below in the Resources) suggests Nike is taking her sandal off because she is about to walk on sacred ground inside the temple. I think this piece, along with the Nike of Samothrace, are the highlights of the Greek ability to work with marble and make it come to life.
This is a great piece to juxtapose with an earlier Greek female statue: #28. Peplos Kore from the Acropolis. to see the dramatic transformation in drapery in less than 100 years.
Read more: Lesson Plan: The Classical World
- Gardner’s Art through the Ages, 15th edition, pg. 138-139
- Greek Art and Archaeology, pg. 267-268
- Thought Co.: The Story of Nike, the Greek Goddess of Victory
- Khan Academy: Victory (Nike) Adjusting Her Sandal, Temple of Athena Nike (Acropolis) (video)
- Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University: Athens, Acropolis 973 (Sculpture)
- Cornell Digital Library, Cornell University: Nike unbinding her sandal from the Temple of Athena Nike parapet
- Live Journal: Nike adjusting her sandal
- Ancient-Greece.org: Athena Nike Parapet Frieze