The Colossal: From Ancient Greece to Giacometti by Peter Mason - review by James Hall

James Hall

Larger than Life

The Colossal: From Ancient Greece to Giacometti


Reaktion Books 192pp £25

At 20 metres high and 54 metres wide, Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North is the contemporary equivalent of the 32-metre-high Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of the sun god Helios that became one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Both preside over heavy traffic – the former flanks the A1 on the outskirts of Gateshead, while the latter flanked the main harbour of the Greek island. The horizontal transient flow of the traffic contrasts with the vertical immovability of the statues, though the Colossus of Rhodes was in fact destroyed by an earthquake after 56 years, and who knows whether fracking or global warming will overthrow Gormley’s angel. Peter Mason observes in The Colossal that it was only in the 15th century that chroniclers started to claim that ships had passed through the legs of the Rhodian Colossus (an impossible feat), and from then on it was depicted as a spread-eagled Vitruvian man, though always in danger of

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