This is a modern plaster cast replica of the famous Sandal Binder relief from the Temple of Athena Nike located on the Acropolis in Athens. The Athena Nike was a form of the goddesss Athena that was worshiped in Athens as a goddess of victory in war and wisdom. After nearly a century of war the great Athenian statesman Pericles to negotiate a peace with Persia in 449 BCE, called the “Peace of Callias” which finally ended the Persian Wars. Following this great victory, Athens was chosen to house the treasury for the Delian League. This influx of wealth allowed Pericles, and the leadership of Athens, to embark on a historic building project in honor of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens. That building project became what we recognize today as the Acropolis. Along with the better-known Parthenon and the Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike was one of several structures built (or re-built) on the Acropolis in honor of the Athenians victory in war. The Acropolis had long been a place of worship, with structures dating back to the Bronze Age. The buildings we see today were built on the foundations of these earlier structures, many of which had been destroyed and rebuilt many times before.
Located near the entrance to the acropolis, just to the south of the Propyla, the Temple of Athena Nike was one of the smaller structures on the Acropolis. The Ionic order temple was designed by Kallikrates and was completed in 420 BCE, nearly ten years after the death of Pericles. The interior of the temple once housed the cult statue of Athena Nike. An ornately carved parapet surrounded the temple and served as a type of guardrail, to keep visitors from falling down the cliff-like edges of the sanctuary. It is thought that the parapet was completed after the Temple of Athena Nike, perhaps as late as 410 BCE. We do not know the identity of the master sculptor, or sculptors, who worked on this project. The parapet was decorated with a number of scenes, including the so-called “Sandal Binder” relief shown in the cast from the Sam Noble Museum. The decoration on the parapet did not tell a continuous story, like that on the Parthenon frieze, but instead contained a number of similar but largely decorative scenes involving the winged goddess of victory, Nike. The “Sandal Binder” version of Nike is shown adjusting her sandal. This has been interpreted in a number of ways: some believe that Nike is removing her sandal before stepping on an altar; others believe she is fastening her sandal in preparation for flight. The Temple of Athena Nike has undergone many restorations, in both antiquity and during the modern era. The most recent restoration was completed over a year ago after the temple was completely deconstructed.
Replicas and casts remain important to sites such as the Acropolis. As weather and pollution pose serious threats to the structural integrity of stone, casts of the originals are placed on-site in order to protect the originals in museums. Casts are also produced for educational purposes, allowing students from around the world hands-on access to antiquities. The original marble Sandal Binder is currently housed in the New Acropolis Museum in Athens.
For more information see:
2006, Statue, Cult and Reproduction. Art History, 29(2): 258-279
2000, “Classical Art and Modern Dress”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art