The School of Athens

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Raphael’s “School of Athens” fresco is one of the four frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura , in the Vatican. The walls are covered with four different scenes, each depicting a different theme. The School of Athens represents Philosophy. The techniques and figures used in the fresco not only pay homage to Raphael’s influences, but are also a presentation of the skills acquired from each. Almost as though he was submitting it for approval. As Raphael traveled throughout Italy, he formed relationships with, and learned a great deal from the masters of the age. In the School of Athens, Raphael depicts his teachers and influences in disguise and presents the skills learned from each. It is because of these influences and the creativity of Raphael’s own mind that he joins his teachers as one of the greats. The Stanza della Segnatura contained apartments for Pope Julius II, who commissioned Raphael to paint them. Vatican patrons say, “The Stanza della Segnatura was to be Julius' library, Bibiotheca Iulia, which would house a small collection of books intended for his personal use.” The frescoes depict four themes, Philosophy, Theology, Poetry and Law. All of the frescoes show heavy influence from his predecessors as well as his contemporaries. Raphael learned much from his travels around Italy and from studying with his master Perugino in his native town of Urbino. From Perugino, he learned oil painting and how to manipulate figures. Raphael’s earliest intact altarpiece, the Mond Crucifixion, “is remarkably close to Perugino, in the lightly posed figures, which are meek and decorous in gesture and sweet in expression, in its linear elegance and atmospheric distant hills, which are bare but for soft clumps and individual trees as light as columns of smoke. All details of the formal language—crooked little fingers, solid scaly wings, hooked drapery folds—derive from Perugino, and Raphael also imitated Perugino’s technique of painting, largely in an oil medium.”...
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