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Trajan's Forum

Baur Johann Wilhelm

(Strasbourg 1607 - Vienna 1642)

Trajan's Forum is one of four miniature vistas of the city of Rome painted by Johann Wilhelm Baur. Purchased by Prince Marcantonio II Borghese, the series also includes Capitoline Hill, Piazza del Quirinale and Piazza Colonna. The four works provide valuable evidence of the city’s urban configuration during the 17th century. Their precise depictions of people and carriages further attest to the liveliness of Roman social life during that era.

Object details

c. 1636
tempera on parchment
diametro cm 9,5

18th-century frame with pinpricks and acanthus leaf motifs, part of a polyptych, 16.5 x 30.5 x 3 cm


Borghese Collection, first cited in Inv. 1693, room XI, no. 37 or 62; Inv. 1790, room VII, nos 82-85; Inventario Fidecommissario Borghese 1833, p. 26, nos 15-18. Purchased by Italian state, 1902.

  • 1990 Roma, Castel Sant’Angelo
  • 2001-2002 Roma, Palazzo del Quirinale
  • 2002 Roma, Palazzo Poli


The work forms part of a series of four miniatures in tempera on parchment, each with a circular form of roughly ten centimetres in diameter. The four Roman vistas are products of the Alsatian artist Johann Wilhelm Baur. In addition to the work in question, the series includes Capitoline Hill (inv. no. 482), Piazza del Quirinale (inv. no. 488) and Piazza Colonna (inv. 489).

The series was first mentioned in the Borghese inventory of 1693 as the work of an unknown artist. In that of 1790, it received the correct attribution: ‘four tondos with prospects, Giov. Gugl. Bagur’. It is likewise accurately ascribed in the 1833 Inventario fidecommissario: ‘Four small tondos with prospects, by Giovanni Gugliemo Bagar, 5 inches in diameter’.

Like the View of Villa Borghese by the same artist (inv. no. 519) – signed and dated 1636 – the four miniatures are believed to have been purchased by Prince Marcantonio II during Baur’s stay in Rome, or perhaps directly received by him from the painter as a gift (Della Pergola 1959, p. 146, nos 200-203; Herrmann Fiore 1990, pp. 193-194, nos 67-68; Barchiesi 2002, p. 144, no. 15).

Born in Strasbourg and trained by the miniaturist Friedrich Brentel, Baur arrived in Italy in the early 1630s, staying mostly in Rome and Naples. Several of his works attest to his Italian period, including the album of drawings conserved in Strasbourg (Musée des Beaux Arts), of which two sheets bear the annotation ‘Roma 1633’ and ‘Roma 1637’. In addition, two other round miniatures of larger dimensions depict Saint Peter's Square and Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, both of which may have had connections with the Borghese Collection as well (Busiri Vici 1957, pp. 32-33; Della Pergola 1959; for the artist’s entire oeuvre, see Busiri Vici 1957, pp. 30-40; Salerno 1976, pp. 460-465). According to our sources (J. von Sandrart, L’Academia Todesca della Architectura, Scultura & Pittura, 1675, II, pp. 306-307; A. Houbraken, De groote schouburgh der Nederlantsche konstschilders en schilderessen, II, 1718, p. 333; N. Pio, Le vite di pittori, scultori et architetti [1724] 1977, p. 91; F. Baldinucci, Notizie de’ Professori del disegno da Cimabue in qua. Secolo V dal 1610 al 1670, 1728, p. 197), Prince Marcantonio was not the only member of prominent noble families to have had close relations with Baur, who also enjoyed the protection of the Duke of Bracciano, Marquis Giustiniani, the Colonna and the Orsini. In about 1637, Baur left Rome for Vienna, where he remained until his death, working at the court of Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand III.

The view of Trajan's Forum is similar to that of an engraving by Giovanni Battista Mercati, number 23 of a collection of Some Views and Prospects of Uninhabited Places of Rome, published in 1629. This work may have been the model for Baur’s miniature, even though the tower on the right is more visible in the latter (Busiri Vici 1957, p. 38). In spite of the small dimensions of this work in tempera, the scene has deep perspective, so much so that the structure of the church of Santa Maria di Loreto is discernible on the right, as far as the arch of the viaduct that connected Palazzo Venezia with the tower of Paul III on Capitoline Hill.

The four miniatures are accommodated in small rectangular holders in pairs, each of which contains a double circular frame with refined plant-motif decorations. Trajan's Forum is coupled with the view of Piazza del Quirinale, occupying the frame on the right.

Pier Ludovico Puddu

  • X. Barbier de Montault, Les Musées et Galeries de Rome, Rome 1870, pp. 357-358.
  • G. Piancastelli, Catalogo dei quadri della Galleria Borghese in Archivio Galleria Borghese, 1891, p. 413.
  • A. Venturi, Il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Roma 1893, pp. 216-217.
  • A.J. Rusconi, La Villa, il Museo e la Galleria Borghese, Bergamo 1906, p. 91.
  • F. Noack, Artisti nordici a Villa Borghese, in “L’Arte”, XVI (Il X Congresso Internazionale di Storia dell’Arte), 1913, p.72.
  • R. Longhi, Precisioni nelle Gallerie Italiane, I, La R. Galleria Borghese, Roma 1928, p. 223.
  • A. Busiri Vici, Visioni architettonico-figurative del soggiorno in Italia di Giov. Guglielmo Baur, in “Palladio”, N.S., VII, 1957, pp. 32-35, 38-39.
  • P. Della Pergola, La Galleria Borghese. I Dipinti, II, Roma 1959, p. 146, n. 200.
  • P. Della Pergola, L’inventario Borghese del 1693, in “Arte antica e moderna”, XXX, 1965, p. 215.
  • L. Salerno, Pittori di Paesaggio del Seicento a Roma, Roma 1976, p. 460.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Il colore delle facciate di Villa Borghese nel contesto delle dominanti coloristiche dell’edilizia romana intorno al 1660, in “Bollettino d’Arte”, LXXIII, 1988, XLVIII, p. 96.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Da Sendai a Roma. Un’ambasceria giapponese a Paolo V, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Castel Sant’Angelo, 1990), a cura di G. Pittau, Roma 1990, p. 194, n. 68.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, in Invisibilia. Rivedere i capolavori. Vedere i progetti, catalogo della mostra (Roma Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 1992), a cura di M. E. Tittoni, S. Guarino, Roma 1992, p. 43.
  • S. Barchiesi, in Il Quirinale. L’immagine del Palazzo dal Cinquecento all’Ottocento, catalogo della mostra (Roma, Palazzo della Fontana di Trevi, 2002), a cura di F. Colalucci, Roma 2002, pp. 144-145, n. 15.
  • K. Herrmann Fiore, Galleria Borghese Roma scopre un tesoro. Dalla pinacoteca ai depositi un museo che non ha più segreti, San Giuliano Milanese 2006, p. 155.