The present fragment of a wing makes a charming work of art in its own right; graceful in silhouette, three layers of plumage are realistically rendered, with each feather carefully incised. The work exudes a sense of levity and dynamism that transforms the unyielding bronze, allowing us to imagine how it once would have suspended the subject in weightless flight.
The wing would originally have been part of a figurine of a winged god, perhaps Cupid or Iris, but most probably Victoria. The counterpart of the Greek goddess Nike, Victoria was one of the most significant goddesses in the Roman pantheon, with many temples and statues erected in her honour, and her image a popular choice on jewellery and coins. Whilst the Greek goddess Nike was primarily concerned with success in sporting games, Roman Victoria was associated rather with success in war and the victory of life over death, becoming a symbol of Rome’s domination over the world and the embodiment of imperial power. The Temple of Victory, erected on the Palatine Hill in the third century BC, became the treasury of the spoils of war during the imperial period, and Augustus dedicated an altar to her in the Senate House to commemorate his victory over Anthony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium. The altar bore a golden statue of the goddess, revered by soldiers and senators alike.
Private Collection, UK, 1970s.
Private Collection, Germany, 1980s-1998.
Private Collection, Germany.