School of Athens
Raphael Santi was born in Urbino of 1483, he was a painter and architect of the Florentine school in the Italian High Renaissance. He studied under Pietro Perugino; but after leaving Perugino and moving to Florence he soon adopted the styles of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo (who were the artists who had established the High Renaissance style in Florence). During that time, Julius II requested decorations for the stanze (rooms) that Nicholas V had added to the building of the Vatican palace built 50 years earlier by Nicholas III. The pope no longer wished to live in the Borgia apartments decorated by Pinturcchio and once where Alexander VI lived, whom Julius despised. So he chose to have the upstairs rooms redone to his taste. Julius II summoned a number of well-known artists to decorate "his" rooms; Sodoma Bramantino, Lorenzo Litto, and Perugino. When Raphael was introduced to the papal court in 1508 by Bramante (the pope's architect and trusted adviser in artistic matters) Julius II released all the other artists and gave Raphael individual responsibility for the stanze. The job of Raphael was to paint a number of frescos (painting on wet plaster wall) in the Stanza della Segnatura; Vatican, Rome. Among these was the School of Athens which I have selected to discuss in this paper. (Earls, pages 183-186) (Merlo, pages 98-99)
The fresco School of Athens is located in the Vatican in Rome in the Stanza della Segnatura which was the place of the Pope's library and where the Pope bestowed standard and civil laws. Raphael set about to create a series of frescoes on the walls and ceiling which expressed the four frescos of learning: theology, philosophy, law, and the arts. These frescoes show that Raphael was an educated person, had some knowledge of Greek philosophy and science. The name of the painting had an explanation behind it which was provided by Hartt, "The picture, universally recognized as the culmination of the High Renaissance ideal of formal and spatial harmony, was intended to confront the Disputa's theologians of Christianity drawn from all ages with an equally imposing group of philosophers of classical antiquity, likewise engaged in solemn discussion" (Earls, page 190). And by this he meant The School of Athens wasn't any school that actually existed there such as Plato's Academy, but an ideal community of intellects from the entire classical world. His inspiration towards this painting came from the decorations in older libraries, and by the great importance of this project. But the greatest influence on Raphael was his friend and mentor, the architect Euclid. Who Raphael probably got most of the secret geometry and architectural composition of his painting, as well as many of the philosophical ideas in it.(Merlo, pages 99-100) (Earls, page 190-192) (Cole, page 52)
In this fresco, Raphael represents the great philosophers and mathematicians of ancient Greece as colleagues in a timeless academy. In the picture, there were many characters but the most important were the following: Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Euclid, Socrates, Michelangelo, Leonardo, himself, Apollo, and Athena. Plato is in the center, pointing his finger to the heavens while holding the Timaeus (the Greek historian of Tauromenium), a sign symbolizing the thought of ideas. He believed that ideas were even more real than the physical world. Next to him, Aristotle holds a copy of his Nichomachean Ethics while describing the earth and the wide realm of moral teaching. He believed that we should first observe the natural world, and then develop ideas and theories about it. Plato and Aristotle are discussing the idea of Idealism vs. Realism. Socrates was placed near Plato and Aristotle; he was with his own circle, plying (working) his questions and counting off on his fingers each point that has been made. He was also Plato's teacher. Pythagoras thinks about his system of proportions at the lower left and Euclid draws a...
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