The Base of Trajan’s Column in Rome
  • Giuseppe Manocchi
  • Rome 1731 - 1782
  • The Base of Trajan’s Column in Rome, 1772
  • Pen and black ink, brown wash, on two joined sheets of paper, two framing lines with pen and ink,
  • inscribed, signed and dated lower middle:
    Trofei di colonna Traiana da Giuseppe Manocchi Romano 1772
  • 365 × 593 mm (436 × 617 mm size of the sheet)

After his training and initial success as a draughtsman in his native city, Manocchi left around 1765 to work for several years in London, before once again dedicating himself entirely to the study of antiquity in Rome. Alongside depictions of classical architecture, he also created fantastical decorative designs in the manner of sixteenth-century grotesques.

The monumental, 38 meter-high triumphal column of the Emperor Trajan (98 -117 AD) was erected in 113 in his splendid forum next to the city’s largest basilica. A continuous, 200 meter-long frieze glorifies the victories of the successful commander, whose gilded bronze statue once crowned the Doric column (Fig. 1). Pope Sixtus V had this statue replaced in 1587 with the still-preserved figure of the Apostle Peter.

According to an original inscription, the height of the cubic base, at 6.2 meters, corresponds to the ground level at this site before the beginning of construction. Manocchi left this field of text above the entrance to the spiral staircase inside of the column’s shaft blank, but faithfully reproduced the relief ornamentation as well as the considerable damage to the pedestal. With light and shadow, he heightened still further the expressiveness of the reliefs and the drama of the structural injuries.