Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

Portrait of the Four Tetrarchs

Date ca. 305 CE
Movement Roman
Medium Porphyry
Height 51″
Located at The Basilica of San Marco, Venice

This work is an extension of the abstract trend in the empire – with squat, unnatural figures and abstract facial expressions, devoid of unique personification. Aside from the fact that one of each pair is close- shaven while the other bearded (perhaps to signify one as the augustus, the other as the caesar), the tetrarchs are nearly identical, emphasizing their equality in power; meanwhile, their huddled poses would have symbolized unity, important especially after decades of political turmoil. The use of porphyry would have signified the tetrarchs’ power, as the material had long been reserved for the imperial class.