The Colossal: From Ancient Greece to Giacometti

The Colossal: From Ancient Greece to Giacometti

Peter Mason

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 1780231083

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Colossal: From Ancient Greece to Giacometti

Peter Mason

Language: English

Pages: 208

ISBN: 1780231083

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Peter Mason takes a bold, multidisciplinary approach in this account of the idea of the colossal in culture. He gathers instances of the colossal throughout history—including the obelisks of Egypt, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Roman Colosseum, the heads of the Olmecs, and the stone statues of Easter Island—using historical and archaeological evidence to position them within the context of time and culture. Mason establishes a vision of the colossal that encompasses both the colossal in scale and another, overlooked sense of the word: the archaic Greek kolossos, a ritual effigy, and its modern equivalents.

Combining fascinating detail with a rigorous account that spans three millennia, The Colossal argues that the artist who best understood and tapped into the kolossos was Alberto Giacometti. Mason shows that the Swiss sculptor and painter’s work articulated themes of death and mourning in ways rarely seen since the art of archaic Greece, themes most evident in his enigmatic work, The Cube. From the monolithic sculptures of long-dead civilizations to Giacometti’s imposing and unsettling heads, The Colossal is an innovative book that traces unexplored thematic threads through visual history.

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Augustus had two obelisks transported from Heliopolis to Alexandria, he went on to successfully transport two obelisks from Heliopolis by sea to Rome and have them erected there. Roman obelisk ships appear to have been three-hulled versions of the Egyptian ones.17 Finally there came the problem of the erection of the monumental stone. As we have seen, Routledge favoured the idea of hauling them up a sloping embankment of earth and then dropping them in place. A similar technique involving the

prostrate elder son. It is no wonder that Alberto found The Cube disturbing. As we have seen, the many layers of overdetermination that surround The Cube do not make it an easy work to place or to interpret. The subject of the following passage is Dürer’s Melencolia I, but it could have been written about The Cube: Instead of mediating a meaning, Melencolia seems designed to generate multiple and contradictory readings, to clue its viewers to an endless exegetical labor until, exhausted in the

were situated somewhere between these two categories. Herodotus, for instance, records that, if a Spartan king died in battle, a statue (eidolon) of him was made, placed upon a litter and carried to the grave at Sparta.4 This was not, Vernant stresses, a portrait or an effigy. It was a double, an equivalent made in order to comply with the religious necessity to bury the corpse of the king in Sparta. All the same, it can hardly have been completely aniconic. So here we seem to be confronted with

information there. 26  Ibid., p. 104. 27  Van Tilburg, Remote Possibilities, p. 47; M. Gusinde, ‘Catálogo de los objetos originarios de la Isla de Pascua conservados en este Museo’, Publicaciones del Museo de Etnología y Antropología de Chile, III (1922), pp. 200–44 includes a photograph of the moai on the island prior to embarkation. I am endebted for a photocopy of Gusinde’s article to the late Anne Chapman. 28  Hänig and Sauer, ‘Technique de coffrage et de moulage’, p. 156. 29  The

volcanic rock coloured red with oxidized iron came from only one place on the island, Puna Pau, at a considerable distance from the Rano Raraku quarry where most of the moai were carved. See Flenley and Bahn, The Enigmas of Easter Island, p. 142. 30  Fischer, Island at the End of the World, p. 245. 31  Larry Rohter, ‘An Artist Sets Sail, but South Pacific Pulls Him Home’, The New York Times (22 April 2006). 32  Though the stone gives the date of 1978, the inauguration of its placement is dated

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