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Pietro Santi Bartoli, Plate 51: Roman soldiers bringing two heads of Dacian prisoners before emperor Trajan

Plate 51: Roman soldiers bringing two heads of Dacian prisoners before emperor Trajan, 1672

Pietro Santi Bartoli (1635 - 1700)

RA Collection: Art

The Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column erected in Rome in 113 AD by emperor Trajan. Most likely constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus it was part of the project of the Trajan Forum to commemorate the Roman victory against the Dacians over the dominion of Dacia (modern day Romania).

The column is decorated by a continuous helical frieze that winds around its body from base to capital. The reliefs depict scenes of the two wars against the Dacians in great detail. However, the height of the column prevented thorough and understanding of this capital monument of the imperial Rome. Its study was finally made possible in 1660s when King Louis XIV of France commissioned the erection of scaffolding in order to make a cast of the whole frieze. The engraver Pietro Santi Bartoli was therefore able to sketch every episode. This monumental work was later etched and completed with annotations of the antiquarian Pietro Bellori, adding to previous work by Alfonso Chacón (1576) and published by Domenico de’ Rossi (1672).

Bartoli’s Colonna Traiana was immediately a success. Although not accurate in every detail and inevitably incorporating some elements of contemporary artistic style, Bartoli's Trajan Column appeared to be the most compleate and detailed repertoire of the time. In addition, it was an agile research tool: manageable, highly illustrated, and not heavily pedantic. Reprinted in 1704, 1751 and 1825, Bartoli’s Colonna Traiana remained the most valid point of reference for any study of Trajan’s Column until the early nineteenth-century photographic reproductions, which unsurpassed even by the monumental Piranesi’s edition, Trofeo o Sia Magnifica Colonna Coclide (1774–79).

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Object details

Plate 51: Roman soldiers bringing two heads of Dacian prisoners before emperor Trajan
Engraved by
Pietro Santi Bartoli (1635 - 1700)
Drawn by
Pietro Santi Bartoli (1635 - 1700)
Printed by
Giacomo De' Rossi (fl. ca. 1781?)
Giovanni Pietro Bellori (1613 - 1696) and Alfonso Chacon (1540 - 1599)
Previous owner
Object type
Place of Publication

186 mm x 364 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Colonna Traiana Eretta Dal Senato, E Popolo Romano All'Imperatore Traiano Augusto Nel Suo Foro In Roma. Scolpita Con L'Historie Della Guerra Dacica La Prima E La Seconda Espeditione, E Vittoria Contro Il Re Decebalo. Nuovamente Disegnata, Et Intagliata Da Pietro Santi Bartoli. Con L'Espositione Latina D'Alfonso Ciaccone, Compendiata Nella Vulgare Lingua Sotto Ciascuna Immagine, Accresciuta Di Medaglie, Inscrittioni, E Trofei, Da Gio. Pietro Bellori. - in Roma, alla Pace con Privilegio del S. Pontefice.: (1751).

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