Essay: Compare and Contrast the Artworks Nike of Samothrace and Coatlicue

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¶ … artworks "Nike of Samothrace" and "Coatlicue"

Goddesses Alike

Upon initial examination, an abundance of differences can be found between the pieces of art known as "Nike of Samothrace" and "Coatlicue." Each artistic representation is from a different culture, the former of which is Greek while the latter is Aztecan. A wealth of dissimilarities can be found between those two cultures, including several centuries difference in the time period in which the works were approximately created (Nike is believed to have been erected in the second century B.C. while scholars estimate Coatlicue to have been finished no earlier than the late 15th century) and in the actual renderings of the subjects. However, as was the case with most historical art pieces dating back to the Renaissance and beyond, both works depict religious figures, which each happen to be female and played a significant part of the culture and religious beliefs of the citizens in the epochs in which they were composed. Therefore, it is of immense interest to compare the setting, the subjects, and the symbolism depicted in each work, to understand what these pieces meant to their respective cultures.

There is a graceful simplicity to be found in Nike of Samothrace, which is evident in its marble composition and coloring. Currently located in the Louvre Museum of Paris, this statue (which is missing its head and hands) illustrates the winged goddess of victory. Nike's genealogy is fairly important to this work of art and to her prominence (Curators) within Greek artwork as a whole, and is both a point of similarity and dissimilarity with the Coatlicue. The Greek goddess was the daughter of two of the Titans (the gods who were believed to have reigned before the Olympians overthrew them) named Pallas and Styx, and her immediate family was populated by other gods who personified traits such as strength (Kratos), rivalry (Zelos), and force (Bia). Due to her role in the ensuing war between the forces of Zeus and those of the Titans, Zeus bestowed upon Nike her representation of victory, which became related to all sorts of competitions whether they were in sports, conventional battle, or even in (literary) arts (Curators).

The genealogy of Coatlicue is also highly significant to the Aztecan culture that revered her. Quite simply, she is the mother of everything, representative of the earth and therefore symbolic of both life and death and most of what happens in between these two states. She is regarded to have engendered the stars, sun and the moon, as well as her own gods and goddesses, including her son Huitzilopochtli and her daughter Coyolxauhqui. Similar to the legend of Nike, Coatlicue was also engaged in conflict with her immediate family, who were supposed to be "outraged" by the fact that "she was magically impregnated by a ball of feathers" (Robles & del Castillo). However, whereas Nike was pitted in the role of usurper by aiding Zeus to overthrow the Titans, Coatlicue was, in a sense, the usurped as she was eventually decapitated by her angry children although Huitzilopchtli, who was born with weapons and armor, took vengeance by destroying many of his siblings who contributed to Coatlicue's fate (Robles & del Castillo).

However, largely due to the wide variety of concepts that Coatlicue represents and is responsible for in conventional Aztecan religion, the statue that depicts her (and which currently resides in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City) is accordantly busy and full of images and symbols that give visual reference to these ideas. Whereas Nike is simply shown wearing rather conventional garments, Coatlicue has been imbued with some of the most vivacious (and frightening) garments within a work or art. Due to her prowess as a mother, who is responsible for birthing several gods, goddesses and parts of the universe, Coatlicue is regarded as both a creator and a destroyer (Encyclopedia Britannica) (the latter which is aligned with the fact that she is responsible for all existence -- which eventually dies). This fact is signified within… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Compare and Contrast the Artworks Nike of Samothrace and Coatlicue."  Essaytown.com.  March 2, 2012.  Accessed November 21, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/compare-contrast-artworks-nike-samothrace/54292.