The School of Athens

“While we may term other works paintings, those of Raphael are living things; the flesh palpitates, the breath comes and goes, every organ lives, life pulsates everywhere. ” — Vasari Raphael was born Raffaello Santi or Raffaello Sanzio in Urbino on April 6, 1483, and received his early training in art from his father, the painter Giovanni Santi. In 1499 he went to Perugia, in Umbria, and became a student and assistant of the painter Perugino. Raphael imitated his master closely; their paintings of this period are executed in styles so similar that art historians have found it difficult to determine which were painted by Raphael.

In 1504 Raphael moved to Florence, where he studied the work of such established painters of the time as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, learning their methods of representing the play of light and shade, anatomy, and dramatic action. In 1508 Raphael was called to Rome by Pope Julius II and commissioned to execute frescoes in four small stanze, or rooms, of the Vatican Palace. The second Vatican chamber, the Stanza d’Eliodoro, painted with the aid of Raphael’s assistants, contains scenes representing the triumph of the Roman Catholic church over its enemies.

After the death of Pope Julius II in 1513, and the accession of Leo X, Raphael’s influence and responsibilities increased. He was made chief architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica in 1514, and a year later was appointed director of all the excavations of antiquities in and near Rome. Raphael died in Rome on his 37th birthday, April 6, 1520. School of Athens Brief History: Raphael painted the School of Athens from-1510 – 1512. He was commissioned by pope Julius II, with the recommendation of Donato Bramante, the pope’s architect, to work in the Vatican.

His first work the School of Athens was loved so much by the pope that he commissioned Raphael to paint the entire papal suite. In the School of Athens, philosophers and intellects from different time periods are arranged as students in a school or academy where everyone is learning off each other. The Stanza della Segnatura was to be Julius’ library which would house a small collection of books intended for his personal use. The walls of the first room, the Stanza della Segnatura, are decorated with scenes elaborating ideas suggested by personifications of Theology, Philosophy, and Poetry which appear on the ceiling.

On the wall under Theology is the Disputa, representing a group discussing the mystery of the Trinity. The famous School of Athens, on the wall beneath Philosophy, portrays an open architectural space in which Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers are engaged in discourse. On the wall under Poetry is the Parnassus, in which the Greek god Apollo appears surrounded by the Muses and the great poets. (Paoletti, 347) Others describe the frescoes in the Stanze as “related to three fundamental ideas of Christian Platonism, The True, The Good and The Beautiful.

The Disputa corresponds to theological or revealed truth, and the School of Athens to philosophical or rational truth; the frescoes of the Virtues, canon law and civil law correspond to the Good; and the Parnassus to the Beautiful. ” (Daley, 114) The Intellects: In the center of the painting is Plato on the left and Aristotle on the right. These two are showing the two parts within philosophy, Timaeus and Ethics. The other philosophers on the sides are corresponding to the separate schools of thought within the two major divisions, each carrying on the philosophical arguments for which they were famous (Fleming, 304).

Plato: (428-c. 347 BC) was a Greek philosopher and one of the most creative and influential thinkers in Western philosophy. Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the institution often described as the first European university. It provided a comprehensive curriculum, including such subjects as astronomy, biology, mathematics, political theory, and philosophy. Aristotle was the Academy’s most prominent student. At the heart of Plato’s philosophy is his theory of Forms, or Ideas. His view of knowledge, his ethical theory, his psychology, his concept of the state, and his perspective on art must be understood in terms of this theory.

Raphael made him resemble Leonardo da Vinci because, firstly Leonardo was a big influence on him and his works and secondly Leonardo was a man of man talents or virtu’s who had a huge impact on the world and the same can be said of Plato. Aristotle: (384-322 BC), Greek philosopher and scientist, who shares with Plato and Socrates the distinction of being the most famous of ancient philosophers. Aristotle, like Plato, made regular use of the dialogue in his earliest years at the Academy, but lacking Plato’s imaginative gifts never found the form to his liking.

His works on natural science include Physics, which gives a vast amount of information on astronomy, meteorology, plants, and animals. His writings on the nature, scope, and properties of being, were called the First Philosophy. Diogenes: (412-323 BC) Greek philosopher,. He was a founder of Cynicism, an ancient school of philosophy. He is said to have lived in a tub in Athens and to have wandered the streets with a lamp, seeking an honest man. In the picture is sitting by himself on the stairs, reading, and that could symbolize the years he spent alone.

Euclid:(325-265)Greek mathematician who taught in Alexandria and who was probably the founder of its mathematical school. His chief work is the 13-volume Elements, which became the most widely known mathematical book of classical antiquity, and is still much used in geometry. The approach, which obeys his axioms, became known as Euclidian geometry. In the picture he is the one bending over writing on the slate and Raphael likens him to Donato Bramante most probably because he is was a highly skilled geometrical perspectives and this could be seen in his works.

Zoroaster: (630-550 BC) was an ancient Persian prophet who founded the first world religion – Zoroastrianism. According to the prophet, man had been given the power to choose between good and evil and the end of the world would come when the forces of light would triumph and the saved souls rejoice in it’s victory. In the picture he is holding a celestial sphere and that represents the comic strife between Ahura Mazda, the god of light and Ahriman, the principle of evil. Ptolemy: (87 -150 AD) He was an astronomer, mathematician and geographer.

He codified the Greek geocentric view of the universe, and rationalized the apparent motions of the planets, as they were known in his time. Ptolemy’s system involved at least 80 epicycles to explain the motions of the Sun, the Moon, and the five planets known in his time. He believed the planets and sun to orbit the Earth in the order Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This system became known as the Ptolemaic systems and he is holding an earth sphere and that represents that the earth is the center of the universe.

Raphael and Sodoma: (1477-1549) this isn’t quite strange as most of the painters of the time put themselves in their own paintings. Here Raphael puts himself and his good friend Sodoma who was a painter and his works bridged the High Renaissance and Mannerist styles. His most important project was the series of the 31 frescoes in the monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Heraclitus: (535-475 BC) His great work “On Nature” (peri phuseos), in three books, was written in the Ionian dialect, and is the oldest monument of Greek prose. Considerable fragments of it have come down to us. The language is bold, harsh, and figurative.

The style is so careless that the syntactical relations of the words are often hard to perceive; and the thoughts are profound, and Lucretius attacks him on the ground From his gloomy view of life he is often called “the Weeping Philosopher,” as Democritus is known as “the Laughing Philosopher. ” It is above all in dealing with Heraclitus that we are made to feel the importance of personality in shaping systems of philosophy. He is likened to Michelangelo because Michelangelo showed personality and character in his works like “David” and “The Pieta” and the “Sistine Chapel”, that made him a great artist and sculptor.

Parmenides: (396-314 BC) Greek philosopher who defended the philosophy of Plato against the criticism of Aristotle. As the head of the Academy in the 4th century, Parmenides held the quasi-Pythagorean view that the Platonic Forms, including even the individual human soul, are all numbers. Socrates: (470-399BC) A philosopher of Athens, generally regarded as one of the wisest people of all time He’s the one who brought the attention of the Greeks toward questions of ethics and virtue. Socrates himself left no writings, and most of our knowledge of him and his teachings comes from the dialogues of his most famous pupil, Plato.

Socrates is described as having neglected his own affairs, instead spending his time discussing virtue, justice, and piety wherever his fellow citizens congregated, seeking wisdom about right conduct so that he might guide the moral and intellectual improvement of Athens. Socrates equated virtue with the knowledge of one’s true self, holding that no one knowingly does wrong. In the painting he is having a discussion with Alcibiades, Xenophon and Alexander the Great, and it reflects how Socrates loved to talk as he would in the Athens marketplace where he held conversations with towns people and this led to people loving him or hating him.

Averroes: (1126-1198) His greatest work was his commentaries on Aristotle. He attempted to delimit the separate domains of faith and reason, pointing out the two need not be reconciled because they did not conflict. He was condemned by the Catholic Church for the Averroist contention that philosophical truth derived from reason and not from faith. Pythagoras: (582-507 BC) pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, founder of the Pythagorean school. The Pythagoras is best known for two teachings: the transmigration of souls and the theory that numbers constitute the true nature of things.

Epicurus: (341-270BC) Greek philosopher who founded another school of philosophy in Athens. Adopted the atomism of Leucippus and Democritus maintaining that all objects and events, including human lives, are in reality nothing more than physical interactions among minute indestructible particles. As they fall towards the center of the earth, atoms swerve from their paths to collide with each other and form temporary compound beings and all of this happens purely by chance. Zeno: (333-265BC) Greek philosopher, attended Plato’s Academy then opened his own school.

Founder of Stoicism, a philosophy that asserted that virtue consisted in a will which is in agreement with nature The meaning of the School of Athens: The School of Athens and The Disputa have become the paradigms for the classical style in painting. In the School of Athens the arch is repeated in the barrel vaults of the architecture behind the figures, a building that reflects the contemporary plans of Bramante for the new St Peter’s. In this image the single point perspective system is structured so that it moves to a point between the heads of Plato and Aristotle, emphasizing their seminal importance for the discipline of philosophy. Paoletti, 348) The heads of Plato and Aristotle are amongst the smallest in the painting but are the only ones with he sky in the background. This could symbolize their importance and their connection in terms of philosophy to the heavens.

Their gestures, Plato with his hand to the sky and Aristotle with his to the ground, are enhanced by the architecture. “The arch if completed as a circle would underline the extended hand of Aristotle. This is the sort of finely calculated geometry helps organize the painting. (Daley, 77) In comparing it to the Disputa, the unfinished church in which the meeting of the theologians; (on earth and in heaven) is taking place, “is complemented by the vision of Paradise, as natural theology is completed by divine revelation. In the School of Athens the hall is indeed finished but the sky is empty, because philosophy alone cannot lead to the understanding of revealed mysteries. ” (Daley) There is a connection as in the Disputa he shows a lot of the sky and in School of Athens there is much less of it.

This is probably because he was painting the Stanze for the Vatican and had to show that the theologists had higher powers or had more significance than the philosophers were. On the collar of his tunic is the Raphael’s signature: R. V. S. M, which is Raphael Urbinas Sua Manu. Artists did this as there was believed to be forgery and they wanted to claim the works as their own. Conclusion: The School of Athens was such and still is one of the most important pieces of art in history. This painting shows the artistic brilliance of Raphael and goes well beyond than showing several philosophers of different generations all converged in one hall.

It depicts the different philosophical thought that was going on in ancient Greece and how each of the great philosophers was related to the two main ideas of Plato and Aristotle. Painters in that era were very much influenced on what to paint by whom they were commissioned by. The Catholic Church commissioned many projects and their main goal was to glorify the church. The thought of even questioning the church was interpreted to be treason and punishable by death. That is why in the School of Athens, the philosophers are shown in a way not undermining or questioning the thought of the theologians in the Disputa.

The School of Athens is just as the title says, school. It is indoors and almost everything is covered except for sky you can see above Plato and Aristotle’s head. This shows that maybe only these two come closest to relating to the theologians who are the ones which communicate and have direct contact to the heavens, hence Disputa as they (the ones on earth and the ones in heaven) are having an argument. The pure brilliance of the man is shown in his artwork and the School of Athens is no exception, actually being one of his and Renaissance arts’ best piece.


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