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


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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(attrib.), Caesar Leaving Rome, c. 1533, majolica. In consciously deploying ancient obelisks to carry a religious message, the popes were following in the footsteps of Augustus, who had reshaped the appearance of Rome with statues and monuments, including obelisks, to drive home the political message of the Pax Augusta.33 Just as he had deployed them strategically to create an urban geography that was a celebration of his own rule, the popes created intersecting visual axes that linked sites of

functioned as burial mounds. Cremation, a practice unknown in the rest of eastern and central Polynesia, was commoner than burial in early periods on the island, and when burial did come to replace cremation in pits behind the platforms – perhaps around 1700 – the bodies were often left exposed for a period of time before being placed in family caves. The French traveller Pierre Loti, who visited the island in 1872, said that the whole island was like an immense ossuary and that merely to lift a

display of objects labelled as ‘ethnographic’. In the current thematic display in the Wellcome Trust Gallery, the ethnographic specificity of an object from Polynesia is lost amid the plethora of objects from different parts of the (non-European) world. In 2004 there was even an appreciable ‘Harry Potter’ content to the display. Though it was not found on a platform (ahu), Hoa Hakananai’a was probably connected with a sacred site on Easter Island; this sacral dimension is bound to be lost when it

where the democratically elected President Salvador Allende was killed during the U.S.-orchestrated military coup of General Augusto Pinochet on 11 September 1973, is an original moai from Easter Island with the slogan ‘Distance does not keep the Chileans apart / Easter [Island] is in the heart of the fatherland / Municipality of Santiago 1978’.32 The mound on which it stands may have been intended to be reminiscent of the raised platforms of the island, and the large stones scattered around it

letters of the alphabet contained in Spanish documents that the islanders saw in the eighteenth century; see Van Tilburg, Among Stone Giants, p. 141, and Flenley and Bahn, The Enigmas of Easter Island, pp. 183–90. 46  Fischer, Island at the End of the World, p. 91. 47  Ibid., p. 14. 48  Routledge, The Mystery of Easter Island, p. 212. 49  Van Tilburg, Among Stone Giants, p. 119. 50  Van Tilburg, Remote Possibilities, p. 1. 51  Fischer, Island at the End of the World, p. 124. 52  Ibid., p.

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