The basic concept of Bartoli’s work “Colonna Traiana” is the holistic depiction of the frieze of Trajan’s Column, which is the most imposing and famous part of Trajan’s Forum in Rome. The column is a 29.78 metre high Doric column of honour. On the spiralling frieze, which reaches a total length of 200 metres, Trajan had scenes from his successful wars against the Dakars depicted. On the column, and thus also in the book, 2500 people, who are about 60-75 centimetres tall, are depicted. The scenes are recorded in detail and provide information about clothing and weapons of the 2nd century.
Bartoli drew the relief of Trajan’s Column using the copperplate engraving technique and divided it into individual sections, each of which fills a page in his book. The margins of the individual sections are perfectly aligned, so that one could easily line them up without interruption. This phenomenon is further supported by the hatched background that is visible in each section. Only the background of the first two and the last page are not completely hatched. I think this is to signal the beginning and end of the narrative and to have an introductory as well as a fading effect.
In addition, the sections are all the same length and have been supplemented by comments, which are always divided into two parts and together belong to one section each. The commentaries themselves, however, were not written by Bartoli, but by Giovan Pietro Bellori.
I was particularly struck by the structure of the book. First of all, one gets an overview of the abdominal work through the overall view of the column. The view is shown in combination with a section, which has been annotated and measured accordingly. Then views of the base are shown, as well as foundation plans, of which there are five different ones. This is because it was cut at different heights. The plinth views are shown from four different angles and are also richly decorated. Only after the explanation of the structure of the building, the focus is put on the relief with the war scenes. I think Bartoli wanted people to look at the column as a building first before looking at its imagery.
Drawing of Trajan’s Column