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Following in Trajan’s Footsteps

  • Following in Trajan’s Footsteps

    A virtual exhibition on the precious relics and unique items from the reign of Trajan present in the Uffizi collections

    Following in Trajan’s Footsteps
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    Bust of Trajan

    Uffizi Galleries, Treasury of the Grand Dukes, Inv. Gemme 1921 no. 452, Roman art, Botteghe granducali, head: early 2nd century A.D.; bust: 1584-1586; drape: 18th century; agate, oriental alabaster, semesanto, breccia, gilt bronze.


    “But in our Prince what unclouded rays of glory meet! What pure

    mixture of all that is commendable! His affability does not detract from his

    majestic bearing and grandeur,

    His obliging freedom does in no way trespass on his becoming gravity. His manly height and proportioned strength,

    the ornament of black hair, the advantages of a stern, commanding look, the

    perfection of a found and healthy middle age, and as an express favour of heaven,

    the budding appearance of some few grey hairs as the ensign of

    wisdom, rather than the effect of declining years, What can all these import

    less than a Prince?” (Pliny the Younger, Panegyric in Praise of Trajan, 4, 6-7)


    This is how Marcus Ulpius Traianus (53-117 A.D.) appeared in the eyes of his contemporaries. He was originally from Italica (modern Santiponce, near Seville), and the first Roman from the provinces to ascend to the imperial throne. Trajan’s reign (98-117A.D.) is calculated, according to sources as 19 years, 6 months, and 15 days, stating the date of 28 January 98 A.D. as dies imperii. After the excesses of Domitian, Trajan brought in a new concept of imperial power, founded on the choice of the best, the optimus princeps, designated in life and then adopted as a son. Authors from ancient times agree on his as a model of all virtues. He was a strict, balanced man, who concerned about justice and the common good. Trajan took great care, according to canons that were unusual for the time, to construct a public image that would be as perfect as possible, creating his own legend. He was loyal to friends, respectful to women in his family, and in war, he shared the hardships of military life alongside his soldiers; in times of peace, it was possible to see him walking around, a normal citizen in the midst of the crowd. Moreover, the power and fascination of this character and the image he built became so deeply rooted in public awareness that they have remained unchanged over the centuries, passed down through the generations, a legacy for modern times.

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    Forum of Trajan

    Trajan is remembered as a great builder and his Forum, the last but also the grandest of the imperial forums, is the greatest testament to an intensive urban development project that was destined to significantly change the face of Rome. The immense spoils conquered in two military campaigns in Dacia (101-102 A.D., 105-107 A.D.) and above all, the exploitation of the gold mines there, contributed to financing the emperor’s feverish building activities. The forum was designed by Apollodorus of Damascus, a military engineer and trusted architect to Trajan, and was preceded by important excavation works in the land between the Quirinal and Capitoline Hills. It was built in the period between 107 and 113 A.D. The imposing building covered some 30,000 square metres and included an enormous square, 110 x 86 metres in size, bordered on the east and west sides by a portico with in the centre, two large exhedras, while on the south side, an area with a long, segmented colonnade of uncertain function (perhaps the Porticus Porphyretica mentioned in literary sources), and connected by an arcade to the adjacent Forum of Augustus. The northern side was dominated by the majestic Basilica Ulpia, a rectangular building, some 170 x 56 metres, with five naves and apses on the short sides. Behind the Basilica Ulpia, twin libraries with Trajan's Column in the centre, inside a smaller courtyard with arcade, closed on the north side by the temple dedicated to Trajan and his wife Plotina after their deification, and built by Hadrian. The visual focal point of the whole complex was an equestrian statue of Trajan in gilt bronze, placed in line with the longer axis of the square, slightly off-centre to the south and still in place in 357 A.D., in the period of Emperor Costantius II. Trajan, who was probably facing the Basilica, was represented as a sort of eternal adlocutio to the men who had supported him in the conquest of Dacia, whose legions are mentioned in fragmented inscriptions in bronze, taken from the facade. The decorative programme for the Forum was extremely complex. The outer areas, overlooking the square commemorated imperial dynasties and illustrious figures in the copper shields of the capstones and perhaps in the cycles of statues, while the panels - with the stacks of arms and statues of Dacians - referred to episodes from more recent history. The atmosphere was different in the interior spaces, which evoked an abstract idea of imperial power and the victories of Roma eterna, with a range of decorative friezes including cherubs with acanthus leaves, griffons with eagle’s and lion’s heads, Victories killing bulls, and sphinxes, alternated with Delphic tripods, Dionysian craters, candle holders and garlands. The Forum was inaugurated in January 112 A.D. In May 113 A.D., the whole complex was completed with the inauguration of Trajan’s Column. The Forum was home to the courts and remained in use at least until the middle of the 5th century A.D. and during subsequent centuries, sources mention that it was used for public readings of Virgil and other poets.


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    Trajan's Column

    Trajan’s Column, which is considered one of the most beautiful monuments to survive antiquity, was inaugurated on 12 May 113 A.D. and stands in an area to the north of the Forum, between the two Libraries, in the centre of a courtyard behind the Basilica Ulpia. The column was designed to be a monument celebrating the victory over the Dacians as well as a tomb for the ashes of Trajan and of his wife, Pompea Plotina, and is one of the most innovative works in ancient art.

    A series of white Carrara marble drums, more than 100 Roman feet high (approx. 30 metres) is decorated with spiral design of almost 200 metres of bas-relief friezes narrating - in painstaking detail, as if in an open volumen, and with a fluid, insistent rhythm - episodes from Trajan’s military campaigns of 101-102 A.D. and 105-107 A.D., to conquer Dacia (modern day Romania). The story unfolds as if in photographic sequence; it is divided into two parts by a winged Victory, intent on writing the facts on a shield, perhaps in addition to a work written by Trajan himself, and now lost, the Commentarii de bello dacico. The bas relief work, which marks the birth of a new figurative language, is believed to have been carried out by a single great artist, a prominent personage, although not known to us, identified as the “Master of Trajan’s Enterprises”, perhaps Apollodorus of Damascus, the architect of the Forum.

    On the southern side of the decorated marble base is a small doorway, once closed by bronze doors, which opened onto the burial chamber, where Hadrian placed Trajan’s ashes inside a gold urn in 118 A.D. Inside, there is a spiral staircase with 185 steps leading to the top of the column, illuminated by 43 openings. Above the door is a panel with dedicatory inscription.

    At the top, in the centre of a cordoned-off terrace above the Doric capital decorated with ovules, there was once a giant gilt bronze statue of Trajan. This disappeared in the early Middle Ages, perhaps because it fell or was taken down during the period of Byzantine emperor Costans II. In 663 A.D., the statue was replaced with a bronze figure of St Peter at the wishes of Pope Sixtus V in 1587.

    Since it is almost 40 metres in height, we can say that the column has always been a fundamental point of reference on the panorama of Ancient Rome, and the western world.

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    Bust of Nerva

    Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings, First Corridor, inv. 1914 no. 132 Greek marble h 75

    Trajan’s predecessor, Marcus Cocceius Nerva (26-98 A.D.), a senator from a noble Italic family, close to the gens Flavia, became emperor on the death of Domitian (51-96 A.D.), who was murdered in a plot on 18 September 96 A.D.. His reign was a brief one (96-98), due to his old age and to the lack of a solid power base. To gain the support of the army, Nerva devised a brilliant solution and adopted Trajan, who became his heir and succeeded him on his death on 27 January 98 A.D.

    This bust, first recorded in the Gallery’s collections in 1704, is displayed in the east corridor. The portrait, which is larger than life, shows a mature, old man, with a thin, aristocratic and deeply wrinkled face; hollow cheeks; a large aquiline nose, and a pronounced chin. His brows are prominent, while his mouth is small, with thin, pursed lips that accentuate his solemn, severe expression. His hair is shown in short curls, set out over his forehead in an apparently disordered style. The head, one of the rare ancient portraits of this emperor to survive to the present day, has been fitted to a modern bust in white marble, covered by the chest plate (lorica) and wrapped in a military cloak (paludamentum) fastened to his right shoulder.

    Given the short period of Nerva’s rule, only one type of portraiture was ever developed.


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    Bust of Trajan

    Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings, Second Corridor, inv. 1914 no. 142, Greek marble (head); Lunense marble? (bust), h. 104

    This portrait, which is larger than life, has extremely expressive features. It is located in the southern corridor. Trajan is shown here at the height of his old age, his face marked by the passage of time, but still full of energy. His intense, majestic expression is accentuated by the way the head is facing straight ahead, eyes focused and distant, lips thin and pursed, seemingly in a slight, enigmatic smile. His neck is both short and solid. His hair adheres to his head like a compact cap, with long, crescent-shaped curls that form a fringe. The head is from ancient times, but one of the later types. It has been inserted onto a modern bust, covered with a breastplate (lorica) and wrapped in a military cloak (paludamentum) in multi-coloured marble, secured on the right shoulder.

    There are more portraits of Trajan, as found on statues and busts of note, 125 examples in fact, than those of any other emperor, with the exception of Augustus. The seven types of portrait identified today mark the stages in the emperor’s public life: from his beginnings, when the dominant image is still that of the soldier-prince in his apparent modest simplicity, in contrast to the elaborate models of his predecessors, to the central and final years of his reign, during which a portrait was created that, although not too far from the original images, idealizes Trajan’s face in an heroic sense. The physical features are always easily recognized. The natural-looking hair, divided into long crescent curls that, starting from a whorl on the back, are brushed forwards onto the forehead, following an iconographic formula that was widely tested, but was in fact the result of deliberate elaboration, betraying- especially in portraits from his mature period - a greater adhesion to the classic model, inspired by the Greek style.

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    Statue in armour with the head of Trajan

    Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings 1914 no. 56, Greek marble (head), Lunense marble (body) h 226

    This statue, located in a niche of the Ricetto Lorenese at the entrance to the Gallery, was mentioned in the 16th century, in the courtyard of Palazzo Della Valle-Capranica, Rome. It soon joined the collections in Villa Medici and was taken to Florence in 1788. It was initially considered for the Loggia dei Lanzi, but is recorded in the Gallery inventory for the first time in 1825.

    The head, which is ancient but does not belong to the body, shows Trajan in full maturity, with an oblique gaze and the severe, frowning expression of someone in power. His face is thin and his cheeks are marked by lines, while his lips are thin and pursed. His hair, styled like a compact crown, leaving his ears uncovered, in crescent-shaped curls that fan out over the forehead, much in the style of portraiture known as “Decennale”, devised in 108 on the occasion of the first ten years of his rule and also regarding the his definitive triumph over the Dacians the year before.

    The statue is larger than life and is dressed in military clothes: an anatomical breastplate, with narrow shoulders, decorated with lightning bolts and rows of stiff lappets (pteryges) on the shoulders, legs and pelvis, where they are decorated with animal protomes; on the chest is a small gorgon and two griffons facing one another, while on the pelvis area there is an eagle with outstretched wings. A knotted belt (cingulum) is wound around the waist, with the ends rolled up. The cloak (paludamentum), rolled onto the left shoulder, falls over the hip. The statue is wearing knee-high sandals decorated with lion protomes. There is a sword in the figure's right hand, and in his raised left hand, a roll.

    Generically, the statue can be dated back to the second century A.D. It is a simplified version of the republican model in armour, used to represent the military virtues of the ruler. The type of breastplate, with its anatomical characters and dual types of lappet, is part of a mixed type, conceived after 107-108 A.D., and was widely used in Trajan monuments, in the Forum and in the Arch of Trajan (Benevento).  The decoration takes its inspiration from the colossal statue of Mars Ultor in the temple of the Forum of Augustus. Under Trajan, it seems to have undergone a genuine revival, and makes obvious reference to the political ideology of Augustus. The statue in armour model, conceived as a means of imperial propaganda, remained very popular, at least through to the 4th century A.D.

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    Pseudo-antique portrait of Trajan

    Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings 1914 no. 144, marble, h. 33

    The Gallery also contains a pseudo-antique portrait of Trajan, exhibited on the ground floor at the bottom of the Vasari stairway.

    The head, which was made in the 16th century and recorded in the Tribuna two centuries later, is based on the type of portraiture devised for the “Decennale”, the tenth year of the emperor’s rule, given the particular compactness of the hairstyle, with long curls fanned out over the forehead, the tips pointing towards the left temple, where there are smaller curls, facing the opposite direction.


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    Bust of Hadrian

    Uffizi Galleries, Gallery of Statues and Paintings, First Corridor, inv. 1914 no. 146, Dokimeion marble, h. 68

    Publius Aelius Hadrianus (76-138 A.D.), Trajan’s successor, descended from a family that originally came from Hispania Ulterior Betica (modern-day southern Spain) and was related to the emperor: his paternal grandfather, a senator of Rome was married to Ulpia, Trajan’s aunt, and his father Aelius Hadrianus Afer, came from Italica (now Santiponce, near Seville), the town in which Trajan was born. Hadrian was a favourite of the emperor’s wife, Pompea Plotina and in 100 A.D., at the age of 24, he married Vibia Sabina, daughter of Trajan’s niece, Salonia Matidia, thus becoming a possible heir to the throne. A biographical source from late antiquity ( Historia Augusta, Adriano, 3, 7) narrates that when he received a diamond ring that had once belonged to Nerva as a gift from Trajan, Hadrian interpreted this as confirmation that he was the emperor’s chosen heir.

    The bust, recorded in the Gallery inventory since 1825, is placed in the east corridor. It is larger-than-life in size and portrays a man whose features are still youthful; the face, turned to the left, has relaxed features, a concentrated, severe look, and a slightly open mouth, with a moustache while a short, neat beard covers full cheeks. The hair, which leaves the ears uncovered, has thick, full curls, apparently untidily set out over the forehead, with the ends curled in on themselves. The bust, which is relevant, has a chest plate (lorica), decorated in the centre with a gorgon and covered, on the left shoulder by a military cloak (paludamentum), held in place by a disc-shaped fibula.

    This is the first of the seven portrait types, known as the “Stazione Termini” style, this is the official image, created when Hadrian was 41 and had just ascended to the throne after Trajan’s sudden death in August 117 A.D. The use of the beard and the extremely elaborate hairstyle marks the moment of breaking with the image of Hadrian’s predecessor, a break that seems to underline a turning point in the politics and administration of the empire. The continuity of the dynasty and resulting legitimacy of power remained solely with the female line of the Ulpia-Elia family, as can be seen in the portraits, still in Trajan style, of Marciana, Matidia and, at least in the beginning, Hadrian’s consort, Sabina.

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    Statue of a woman with head of Marcia (?)

    Loggia dei Lanzi, inv. 1914 no. 1995, marble from the Greek islands (Thasos), h 263 (without plinth)

    The most likely theory is that this portrait, capite velato [with covered head] is the mother of Trajan. She perhaps came from the gens Marcia family, although we have no other information about her from any source, and we do not know her real name. Her identity is relegated to anonymity, a common fate of women in Roman society, even those with high social rank, whose role was often just to look after and transmit civic values to adolescent and adult children.

    This portrait shows strong facial features. The face is large and round, with a robust bone structure, large eyes, and long, fine brows. The forehead is framed by curls, parted in the centre and set out in a pincer motif, ending in thick spiral curls arranged in three parallel rows over the temples, with four longer ringlets extended to cheek height. For many years, this head was identified as being Agrippina the Younger, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero, since it copies her particular hairstyle, with the exception of a few variations. However, it seems probable that this is Trajan’s mother, also from a comparison with a head-portrait of colossal size, from an excavation in the eastern hemicycle of the Forum. Marcia is probably shown with the hairstyle that was most fashionable during her youth, inspired by the models of the imperial house of the time, but which had become old-fashioned in the period of Trajan, as shown in the more modern styles exhibited by the younger members of the family.


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    Female statue with the head of Ulpia Marciana

    Loggia dei Lanzi, inv. 1914 no. 1994, Greek island marble (Thasos), h 267 (without plinth)

    The woman’s head is that of Ulpia Marciana, Trajan’s only and much-loved older sister. She was born around 48 and lived with Trajan from the time of her early widowhood until her death on 29 August 112 A.D., the date on which she was deified. Her husband, Gaius Saloninus Matidius Patruinus came from the aristocracy of the city of Vicetia (modern Vicenza). Sources from the period ( Pliny the Younger, Panegyricus Traiani, 83, 4-7 ) mention her open, spontaneous nature, a quality shared with her brother, and they stress the harmonious relationship with her sister-in-law, Pompeia Plotina, with whom she shared the title of Augusta from 105 A.D.

    The portrait is that of an older woman, with an oval face, large eyes, elongated, raised eyebrows, and small, thin lips.  On her forehead is an elaborate hairstyle in the shape of a shell, set on two levels, one on top of the other, and secured by a band of short curls, parted in the middle by a shell-shaped element. At the back, the hair is gathered into braids and then a bun, from which some curls are left free on the neck.

    This portrait is similar to the image adopted when Marciana was already named Augusta, during the celebrations for Trajan’s tenth anniversary (108 A.D.), when she was about 60 years old.

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    Female statue with the head of Salonina Matidia

    Loggia dei Lanzi, inv. 1914 no. 1993, Greek island marble (Thasos),, h 260 (without plinth); head  h 45 

    The portrait is that of Salonina Matidia, the adored niece of Trajan. She was the daughter of the emperor’s only sister, Ulpia Marciana, and mother of Vibai Sabina, Hadrian’s wife. She was given the title of Augusta on the death of her mother in 112 A.D. and deified after her death in 119 A.D.

    The face is that of a young woman, long and oval in shape, with large deep-set eyes, awell-defined browline, and a small mouth with full lips. The face is framed by a double tiara of braids, held in place on her forehead by a band. At the back of her head, the hair is styled into small braids, gathered together in a bun (restored), while some curls, on the left side only, fall freely onto her neck.

    This portrait is of the type probably carried out shortly after death.


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    Loggia dei Lanzi

    This is the name that Bolognese humanist Ulisse Aldovrandi used in Rome, in the early part of the 16th century, to refer to the series of six monumental female statues with added heads, in the arrangement curated by architect Lorenzetto for the courtyard of Palazzo Della Valle-Capranica.  The statues were bought as a group by Ferdinando de’ Medici in 1584 for the purpose of decorating the loggia of his villa on the Pincio Hill. Like the family’s other antiquities, the statues were transferred to Florence in 1787, at the wishes of Peter Leopold Habsburg. After two years of restoration, carried out by Francesco Carradori, the statues were placed in their permanent home, the Loggia dei Lanzi, in August 1789, where they can still be seen today, standing against the back wall. 

    The statues have been together since the 16th century and at least four of them create a uniform group that seems to take its inspiration from representations of the Vestal Virgins at prayer.  Spectrographic analysis seems to confirm that the statues are part of the same group. They are made in the same Greek-island marble, with the exception of  just one, which stands out for its ideal features. The same distant, stern expression on the faces, the same weighting given to the bodies, which tend to stand more on the left leg, and the same approach used on the front, partly softened by the slightly turned heads, and the same position of the arms against their busts, at elbow height, with the left arm held out to the front and the right raised to one side. The clothing too, is identical. A solemn, austere look: robes with wide, elbow-length sleeves that create barely visible folds over the right side and then  drape down in thick folds over the feet while adhering to the bent leg; a long cloak (himation) covers the back, shoulders and head. This is also the case of the statue with the head of Marcia (?), but originally also on that of Salonina Matidia, and it reaches to below the knees. The cloak covers the breasts with a flap of highly-accentuated twisted folds, draping down almost to the left ankle, with wide pleats that fan out.  On the hip, the fabric seems to be held back by a raised arm, as on the statue with the head of Ulpia Marciana and the one with the ideal features, or it is wound around the wrist and held in the hand, as on the ones depicting Marcia (?) and Salonina Matidia.

    Even today, there is still a problem regarding the pertinence of the heads, which never seem to be integral with the bodies. At times, the heads have even been inserted with plugs and always, in any case, with evident reworking on the top part of the torso and even the head itself, although these interventions took place at times that cannot be properly documented.  

    The fact that the series of Sabines includes heads portraying women from the female line of Trajan’s family would lead one to think that they were originally destined to galleries of illustrious personages in the Forum, where they could have been placed in exhedras in the square or inside the Basilica Ulpia. The rear, which is generally quite flat, would seem to confirm the possibility of the statues being placed up against a wall

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    Statue of a Dacian, Pileatus

    Uffizi Galleries, Boboli Gardens, access path to the amphitheatre, inv. Boboli no. 8, red porphyry (body); marble (head, forearms and hands), h 255 (with modern plinth), pedestal, without inv. No., Marble, h 185, width 95, depth 96

    The Dacian statues come from the hanging garden of the Della Valle - Capranica Palace in Rome, and were perhaps recovered from excavations ordered by Cardinal Andrea Della Valle. They were bought by Ferdinando de’ Medici for his villa on the Pincio Hill, where they would have decorated the front of the building. At the end of the 18th century, they were dismantled and moved to Florence, at the wishes of Peter Leopold Habsburg.  The statues were restored by Francesco Carradori, who completed the work in 1792, and they were originally intended for display in a location of great political value, the Loggia dei Lanzi, to represent the triumph of the Habsburg monarchy as heirs to the Holy Roman Empire and the armed wing of Christianity. However, this project was never completed.  After the arrival of Napoleon, the statues were moved to Palazzo Pitti, where they became the focal point of projects designed to celebrate the ideology of imperial triumph, although these were only completed during the Restoration, under Ferdinand III of Habsburg. Since 1810, the monumental pair of Dacians, in porphyry and standing on other ancient bases in marble, in the opposite positions to the ones they occupied in Villa Medici, have been placed at the entrance to Boboli Gardens.  Since 1819-1820, the other monumental Dacian figure, in white marble, has been inside the Sala Castagnoli, in the Palatine Gallery of Palazzo Pitti, in a position that places it in a continuous silent dialogue with an imposing Roman emperor in armour.

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    Statue of a Dacian, Capillatus

    Uffizi Galleries, Boboli Gardens, access path to the amphitheatre, inv. Boboli no. 13, red porphyry (body); marble (head, forearms and hands), h (with modern plinth) 243, pedestal, without inv. no., white marble, h 185, width 95, depth  96

    The Dacians are shown standing, body weight distributed in different ways, head slightly bent, looking downwards, their contracted features expressing composed pain, and at the same time, indomitable pride and dignity. Just one has his head covered, with the pileus reserved to the higher aristocracy, tightly fitting over the head and marked by folds, with a floppy tip, folded forwards; the others, bareheaded, have flowing locks that cover their forehead and the neck; they also have long moustaches and thick beards; their arms are straight by their sides, hands crossed before them, hip height, with the outermost hand level with the forward leg. In the language of pain, the posture expresses a condition of the vanquished, condemned to impotence and submission, while the composure of the subject contrasts with the vigorous images of the Dacians on the bas relief designs of Trajan’s Column. 

    The figures are wrapped in large cloaks, draped in wide folds, and fastened on the right shoulder, leaving the right arm bare but winding around the left to cover the torso almost completely, while falling down to the feet behind. The cloaks cover sleeved tunics, fastened at the waist by a belt and ending under the knees, covering the long pants secured at the ankles with the laces of the sandals.

    Except for the Dacian in white marble, which has a flatter back, the high finish of the porphyry statues gives the impression that their original position was such that they could be seen from all directions. Given the rare nature of the porphyry examples, it has been suggested that they come from a single decorative context (perhaps a Porticus porphyretica as mentioned in sources).

    The pair of Dacians at Boboli are mounted on antique marble bases, although not the originals, decorated with bas relief designs, including the Dioscuri and the Victories bearing trophies of arms.

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    Statue of a Dacian, Capillatus

    Uffizi Galleries, Palazzo Pitti, Palatine Gallery, Sala Castagnoli, inv. OdA 1911 no. 440, marble, h 244

    The iconography of the vanquished Dacian, which perhaps already existed in the period of Domitian, as a result of his supreme efforts in the military campaigns against Dacia (84-86 A.D.), was definitively elaborated and codified during the Trajan era. A central part of imperial propaganda, transposed to the decorative programmes for the Forum, the figure of the vanquished barbarian was obsessively repeated in a way never seen again in Roman history, becoming a dominant and distinguishing theme of Trajan's rule. At the time of their rediscovery in the 16th century, these figures acquired great symbolic value. Collectors of antiquities exhibited statues of barbarians (often in pairs), outside, against the fronts of their palaces or in the loggias of their courtyards and parks, where they filled an architectural or decorative function.  Filtered and re-experienced in the light of historic events of the time, the iconography of the vanquished barbarian became a reminder of the supremacy of Christian civilization in the Western world, as heirs to Rome of the classic period. Interest in the paradigmatic aspect of the sculpture seems to have waned towards the late 16th century, when it was replaced by growing focus on the exotic and more strictly decorative function of these subjects. In 17th-century Florence, the popularity of the vanquished barbarian as iconography can be seen in the frescoes of  Pietro da Cortona, painted in Palazzo Pitti between 1637 and 1647: in the representation of the Bronze Age, located in the Sala della Stufa, the vanquished barbarian, hands crossed over his chest, and in chains, is sitting in the left corner, next to a woman who is resting her chin in her left hand, in sign of pain; in the Sala di Marte, where the ceiling frescoes depict a pair of barbarian prisoners, wrapped in large cloaks and wearing pained but fierce expressions on their faces covered in thick beards, bowing, in spite of themselves, to ask for mercy.


Following in Trajan’s Footsteps

A virtual exhibition on the precious relics and unique items from the reign of Trajan present in the Uffizi collections

This itinerary, inspired by the celebrations to commemorate the 1900th anniversary of Trajan’s  death, is relevant again today, since it coincides with the opening of a new exhibition, “Building a Masterpiece: Trajan’s Column”, that will be held inside the Limonaia at Boboli Gardens from 21/06/2019 to 06/10/2019.

Trajan and Florence. This may seem like an unusual pairing, but there is a profound link that joins Trajan to the city. One that has lasted for centuries. In the 13th century, Dante included a Christian elaboration of Trajan’s story in his Divine Comedy, as interpreted in the post-classical age (Dante, Purgatorio X, 73-96; Paradiso XX, 43-48 and 106-117). The fourteenth-century frescoes in the Bardi Chapel inside the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella contain a cycle of paintings dedicated to St Gregory the Great and re-evoking legends linked to the figure of Trajan. Several centuries later, prestigious marbles, recovered from ancient Roman monuments, became part of the collections of antiquities belonging to the Medici, especially those acquired by Ferdinando I, which joined the decorative sculptures in Villa Medici on the Pincio Hill before being moved to the Florentine properties of the Grand Duchy at the end of the 18th century.

The selected works being showcased in this HyperVision aim to be a natural continuation of the exhibition, giving visitors the possibility of recognising the precious relics and unique items from the reign of Trajan, which can be found in each museum of the Uffizi Galleries. From the Loggia dei Lanzi, to the Gallery of Statues and Paintings and then to the Boboli Gardens and the Palatine Gallery, the remains from Trajan's Forum in the state collections of Florence offer a selection of exceptional sculpted masterpieces, in terms of both number and quality, that are rarely equalled even in Rome.



Angela A., Una giornata nell’antica Roma. Vita quotidiana, segreti e curiosità, Roma 2016

Bianchi Bandinelli R., Il maestro delle imprese di Traiano, Milano 2003

Cantarella E., L’ambiguo malanno. Condizione e immagine della donna nell’antichità greca e romana, Milano 2013

Cantarella E., Passato prossimo. Donne romane da Tacita a Sulpicia, Milano 1996

Capecchi G., I Barbari Daci fiorentini. Forma e colore di un’immagine di Vittoria, in Capecchi G., Marzi M. G., Saladino V. (curated by), I Granduchi di Toscana e l’antico. Acquisti, restauri, allestimenti, Firenze 2008, pp. 131-179

Capecchi G., Le statue antiche della Loggia dei Lanzi, in Bollettino d’Arte LX, III-IV, 1975, pp. 169-178

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Texts by Manola Giachi and Fabrizio Paolucci

Translation by Eurotrad snc.

Editing by Lorenzo Cosentino, Maria Anna Petricelli, Patrizia Naldini - Dipartimento di Informatica e Strategie Digitali

Photos by Francesco del Vecchio e Roberto Palermo (Dipartimento Fotografico)

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