Portrait of The Four Tetrarchs - Style

Style

The figures are stout and blocky, far from the verisimilitude or the idealism of the earlier periods. The figures are stiff and rigid, their attire is patterned and stylized. Their faces are repetitive and they seem to stare in a kind of trance. Comparing them to the slightly later reliefs on the Arch of Constantine in Rome, Ernst Kitzinger finds the same "stubby proportions, angular movements, an ordering of parts through symmetry and repetition and a rendering of features and drapery folds through incisions rather than modelling". Noting other examples, he continues "The hallmark of the style wherever it appears consists of an emphatic hardness, heaviness and angularity — in short, an almost complete rejection of the classical tradition".

The question of how to account for what may seem a decline in both style and execution in Late Antique art has generated a vast amount of discussion. Factors introduced into the discussion include: a breakdown of the transmission in artistic skills due to the political and economic disruption of the Crisis of the Third Century, influence from Eastern and other pre-classical regional styles from around the Empire (a view promoted by Josef Strzygowski (1862-1941), and now mostly discounted), the emergence into high-status public art of a simpler "popular" or "Italic" style that had been used by the less wealthy throughout the reign of Greek models, an active ideological turning against what classical styles had come to represent, and a deliberate preference for seeing the world simply and exploiting the expressive possibilities that a simpler style gave. One factor that cannot be responsible, as the date and origin of the Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs show, is the rise of Christianity to official support, as the changes predated that. This shift in artistic style points towards the style of the Middle Ages.

Read more about this topic:  Portrait Of The Four Tetrarchs

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