Brescia’s Winged Victory

Fondazione Brescia Musei

An exceptional 1st century AD bronze statue

Winged Victory statue
This Roman bronze statue of Winged Victory is a symbol that is still valid today. Questions regarding its origin – who commissioned it, for example – and history remain unanswered. It stimulated the foundation of Brescia’s first museum, and was written about by famous authors such as Carducci and D’Annunzio. Many have asked for a copy, including Napoleone III in 1859. Today it is on display in the Santa Giulia City Museum, and seen by thousands of visitors.
The statue portrays a winged female figure, which originally would have had a helmet beneath its left foot and held a bronze shield – bearing the victor’s name – between the left hand and bent left leg. The statue is thought to date to the mid-1st century AD. It is not known who commissioned it, although this may have been Emperor Vespasian, who took control of the empire after winning a battle not far from Brescia in 69 AD, in which he defeated the armies of Otho and Vitellius.
The statue was found in 1826 during the archaeological excavations together with numerous other bronzes among the ruins of the city’s Capitolium temple, where they had been hidden for safekeeping in Late Imperial times. Scholars and other visitors came from from all over Europe to see these remarkable finds.

Since the time of this imposing statue’s discovery various hypotheses have been advanced regarding its interpretation and missing components.

Together with the Winged Victory were also found 6 portrait heads (one female and six male), plain and decorated frames, other statue fragments, decorative items and the belts of two equestrian statues.

Given the importance of the discovery, in 1830 Brescia’s first civic museum was opened in the rebuilt ruins of the temple. The most important exhibit was the Winged Victory.

The statue was cast using the ‘lost wax’ method, by means of a number of complex technical procedures. Recent studies have shown that it was cast in many separate parts which were then welded together by an expert group of bronze-workers, perhaps in north Italy. Missing components are a helmet – probably present under the left foot – and a shield, which would have borne the name of the victor, held up to the gaze of spectators.

Silver and copper decorations are present in the band around the hair.

The goddess is clothed in a light dress which adheres closely to her body, as though it were wet. Two brooches – perhaps made of a metal other than bronze – clasped this garment at the shoulders.

Around her hips the Victory wears a heavy wrap, with soft, deep folds.

The folds of the cloth are also shown with great precision on the back of the statue.

The wings were detached when found, together with the arms. Shortly after the discovery they were reattached, so as to restore the statue’s ancient aspect. According to some scholars the wings were later additions to the female statue, given their less full-bodied form. Others believe that they were made at the same time as the rest of the castings, and mounted directly on the figure’s back.

The feathers are precisely depicted, lighter in the upper part and flatter and simpler lower down, with fine detail.

There are still many questions about this statue: the date it was made, who commissioned it and the reason for its presence in Brescia, the relationship of the wings to the rest of the body, the artist who designed it and who actually produced it. In order to find some answers, a programme of non-destructive analyses is under way. This will be followed by conservation treatment, including work on the interior and surface cleaning, as well as renewal of the internal support that holds the wings and arms in place.

Brescia’s Winged Victory.

Credits: Story

Comune di Brescia, Opificio delle Pietre Dure di Firenze, Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio delle Province di Bergamo e Brescia.

Thanks to Antaresvision, Camozzi, Ori Martin, Gruppo Saottini.

Credits: All media
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