The Greek goddess stands watch in a large window at the foot of Cherry Street. The foot of the downtown street is fitting, since her name and wings inspired one of the largest shoe companies in the world.
She has called the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame her home for the past eight years. She claimed a marquee spot on the second floor and has never left the building. At night, she is in the spotlight in front of one of the most impressive windows in Macon (thats not in a church).
Last week, art students from Mercer University spent hours drawing her image for a class assignment. Tour groups and schoolchildren often gather around without knowing much about the statue.
They definitely recognize her first name, though. It is Nike, as in Nike of Samothrace, the Winged Goddess of Victory. They look down approvingly at the Nikes on their feet. They are even more impressed when the tour guide tells them the statues wings were the inspiration behind the famous Nike swoosh symbol.
The goddess is 9 feet tall and weighs 1,763 pounds, so shes not going to budge. Her favorite color is gold, and shes covered in it from shoulder to toe. We can assume her head and arms would be, too, if she had them. (Shes a beheaded double amputee.)
Her gold is the real deal. She is made of bronze with two coats of gold, so those guys who flip those We Buy Gold signs on the side of the road should be salivating.
She has been appraised at $2.3 million. Thats more than a quarter what it cost to build the sports hall, which is the largest state sports museum in the country, with more than 43,000 square feet.
There is no immediate danger of someone trying to steal her, either, unless they can bench-press almost a ton. When she arrived here in May 2005, she didnt simply waltz through the front door. The large window at the end of the hall had to be removed, and she was hoisted with a crane, just like when they brought in Bill Elliotts racing car a few years back.
My guess is that most people in Macon know nothing about the goddess or how she arrived. They are not aware she is the only authorized reproduction in the world of the 2,200-year-old original, which is on display at the Louvre in Paris.
The Louvre attracts almost 10 million visitors per year, more than any museum on the planet. And the Winged Victory statue has had a prominent spot at the top of the majestic Daru staircase for 130 years. It is considered among the top five works of the more than 35,000 exhibits.
The original was constructed between 250 and 190 B.C. as a symbol of victory. It is considered one of the greatest surviving masterpieces of Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic Period. It was excavated by French archaeologist Charles Champoiseau in 1863 on the island of Samothrace, off the east coast of Greece in the Aegean Sea. The island was used for ancient religious ceremonies, and temples were built to honor the gods of Greek mythology.
The Winged Victory stood on a cliff and is believed to have fallen during an earthquake and was broken into 180 pieces. Champoiseau had them sent to the Louvre, where the statue underwent reconstructive surgery, sans the head and arms.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported the Winged Victory is now undergoing a nine-month restoration to return it to its original, white-marble color.
Shes going to be out-of-pocket for a while, which means the replica in Macon could be touted as a tourist attraction. I doubt the sports hall of fame is going to draw 10 million visitors by showing off an understudy, but several thousand more would be nice.
What is the only authorized replica in the world doing in Macon, anyway?
Good question. Thanks for asking.
The $8.3 million Georgia Sports Hall of Fame opened its doors in April 1999. Seven months later, the Kushi Foundation, of Japan, announced plans to build a $20 million peace park near Interstate 75 and Rocky Creek Road.
Building on the goodwill from Macons International Cherry Blossom Festival, the 275-acre park was to be a gift from the foundation as a symbol of peace, hope and international friendship.
It was to be called Macon International Cherry Park. Plans called for an impressive 80-acre American flag designed from rows of cherry trees, an amphitheater, museum, hotel, shopping mall and restaurants. The winged goddess replica was to be a centerpiece for the park.
The replica was authorized in 1993 by the French Art Federation. The bronze cast was created from the mold of the original, and the casting was done at the Louvre. It was then sent to Japan, where the gold leaf surface was applied, a Japanese tradition.
But the peace park never materialized, and the proposal unraveled after the statue had already arrived. Macon officials have not been in a hurry to return it, since it was a gift.
It is now owned by the East West Federation, located a block up from the sports hall on Cherry Street. It was first sent to the Museum of Arts & Sciences, then moved to the sports hall of fame where it could be displayed more prominently.
The goddess is still there, headless and shoulders above the rest, in a room with a view.
Her history and beauty should not only to be seen, but admired.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.