Pietro Santi Bartoli, the artist who climbed the stories told in antiquity
We can hardly imagine Pietro Santi Bartoli (1635-1700) putting up scaffolding around Trajan’s Column and then proceeding to climb it.
Yet, it’s true: in the 17th century, for months and months, the corpulent artist and climber explored the huge storiated pillar, whose forty meters of height are wrapped in two hundred meters of spiraling frieze. Battles, wars, deployed troops, ritual sacrifices, embassies… the splendid bas reliefs of the imposing column in Trajan’s Forum, Rome, tell the story of the Dacian Wars fought by the Iberian emperor between 101 and 105 AD.
The painter, engraver, and etcher from Perugia painstakingly copied each scene on paper, climbing further and further up on the monument.
From his drawings, he then created 123 copper engravings dedicated to a friend of his – King Louis XIV of France.
They are 123 perfect, beautiful images from a moment in the history of Rome.