Whatever the explanation, it is clear that the simpler figural style was adopted by Constantine’s artists for
their most important works. An example is found on the reliefs from the Arch of Constantine. Some of the
carvings on this arch were done in the previous century and show all the hallmarks of the classical style:
ideal proportions, contrapposto, and drapery that reveals the body. But the bands of relief sculpture above
the side openings, including Constantine Speaking to the People, show squat figures in uniform rows, with
drapery defined by just a few lines, and contrapposto barely perceptible beneath the heavy folds. This
style, which moved away from the idealism and realism of the classical period, anticipated developments
of the Middle Ages.
Sculptural reliefs from the Arch of Constantine. The roundels above date to the time of Hadrian (c. 120)
century; the frieze showing Constantine Speaking to his people was done around 315.
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