Concept: photographic reproduction
The concept that best summarises the book “Colonna Traiana eretta dal Senato” by Pietro Santo Bartoli is the photographic reproduction of the column of honour for the Emperor Traian on the first pages of the book and later the individual scenes of the war waged by the Trajans.
What I found astonishing was the attention to detail. The reliefs depict scenes of the two wars against the Dacians in great detail. The images seem almost like photographic reproductions, like individual shots from a film representing each scene. It is as if the author had been there and had drawn the picture at the moment of the events, which he observed with his own eyes. This, of course, was not the case, as the book was written more than a thousand years later and the only contemporary witnesses were then the Victory Column and the narrations that formed such exact and truthful pictures in his mind’s eye. After looking at the images, even I have the feeling that I was in the middle of the battlefield and had already seen the Column of Traiana myself.
On the first pages the column is described and precisely measured. In order to be able to see the entire size of the monument in its true proportions, one even has to open the page. This again illustrates this magnificent effect. No normal book page would be sufficient to represent this ingenious monument. Thus the column is manageable, richly illustrated and not overly pedantic. Although it is only a drawing, it appears photographically precise, perhaps even more detail can be discerned than if one were standing directly in front of the landmark.
The countless pictures that accompany the short text passages are striking. There are hardly any pages on which there is only text. The book can be read almost like a picture story about Traian’s campaigns in Dacia, so it is understandable for every social class. One does not need to know the written language in order to understand the book.
The book is about victory, triumph and the associated triumphal column, which was erected for the Emperor Traian on the Forum Traiani in Rome as a column of honour, so one could think that it was written in a glorifying way. The intention is to praise the Trojan people and their leader, but this view is contradicted by the pictures. They show facts, almost as if you were supposed to follow the individual events yourself in order to understand how the victory came about. There is no text that tells you what to believe, but each reader can form his or her own opinion based on the interpretation of the pictures.