Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Colossal

From Ancient Greece to Giacometti

Distributed for Reaktion Books

The Colossal

From Ancient Greece to Giacometti

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.

208 pages | 80 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2013

Art: Art--General Studies

History: General History

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


"Peter Mason spans the centuries with a broad sweep. Taking the Colossos of Rhodes, the Roman Colosseum, the Easter Island statues, the gigantic heads of the Olmecs and Egyptian obelisks, the author develops a theory of  the colossal that goes beyond size. . . . Mason convincingly links the ancient world with the twentieth century, showing yet again how the past and present are entwined."

Prospect Magazine

“This is an attractive book, nicely illustrated, and it covers some fascinating territory.”

Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

Introduction: Inventions of the Colossal
1. Locating the Colossal
2. Obelisks on the Move
3. The Colossal Statues of Easter Island
4. Colossal Heads
5. Collecting Moai
6. Technology and Surrealism

List of Illustrations

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press