Piranesi’s Trofeo o sia Magnifica Colonna (c. 1774) includes detailed studies of both the column of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, with an image of a man in the entrance to the spiral staircase, a view of its pedestal, and a map of the area. Here, the column is shown with deep gashes into the sculpted frieze that are suggestive of the damage the high relief had suffered by the sixteenth century. The diagonal lines created by the shadow on the column’s base emphasize its mass, and Piranesi’s dramatic etching brings out the high contrast of the spiral frieze. At odds with these salient visual features, the bustling street life in the Piazza Colonna nearly obscures Piranesi’s numerical annotations. They identify the column’s modern setting by situating it in relation to the Palazzo Chigi, acquired and rebuilt by the family of Alexander VII in 1659, the Piazza itself, and the Strada del Corso (renamed Corso del Popolo in 1946). Like the column’s ancient spiral relief, Piranesi’s identifying captions invite viewers to navigate through street vendors, ornate carriages, and tourists in order to decipher visual details that strain legibility. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.