raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens

Raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens
While the figure of Hypatia was displaced and disguised, her posture and demeanor were preserved. Unlike almost all of the other characters in the fresco, Hypatia is depicted, not engaged in philosophic inquiry with her peers, but instead directing her gaze out of the painting, towards the viewer standing in front of the fresco. The only other figures so depicted are those of the historian, Diogenes of Laertius, and the artist himself. Raphael thereby symbolizes the roles of the chronicler, the curator, and the artist in projecting, into the future, the intellectual and spiritual thrust of the School of Athens. (Also, whereas the figure of Hypatia was displaced, the figure of Heraclitus is the only major figure in the entire work that was totally absent from Raphael’s final working drawing, the “cartoon”, of all the figures in the fresco. In fact, subsequent examination of the fresco confirms that the figure of Heraclitus was painted in on an area of fresh plaster put on after the adjacent figures were completed. This block-like figure plugged up the visual hole, the expanse of marble steps and flooring in front of Plato and Aristotle, left unoccupied by Hypatia’s displacement.)

“Hypatia of Alexandria, the most famous student of the School of Athens,” replied the artist. “She was a professor of philosophy, mathematics and astronomy at the University of Alexandria and certainly one of the greatest thinkers ever.”

Raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens
In fact Raphael’s painterly skills were soon in such demand that he was obliged to leave more and more work to his assistants, such as Giovanni Francesco Penni (1496-1536), Giulio Romano (1499-1546) and Perino del Vaga (Piero Buonaccorsi) (1501-47). Responsible for numerous altarpieces, such as The Sistine Madonna (1513-14, Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden) and The Transfiguration (1518-20, Pinacoteca Apostolica, Vatican), as well as other examples of religious art, he also produced several famous Renaissance portraits of ecclesiastical and secular subjects – such as Portrait of Baldassare Castiglione (1514-15, Louvre) and Pope Leo X with Cardinals (1518, Galleria Palatina, Pitti Palace, Florence). Arguably the finest painter of the Italian Renaissance, Raphael remains one of the best artists of all time.
Stanza della Segnatura

Raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens
So who is everyone else? It’s not always crystal clear, as Raphael doesn’t arm all his characters with attributes that give away their identity. Fortunately, there are quite a few that scholars can agree on.
Scholars argue that this divide in philosophies, placed at the center of The School of Athens, is the core theme of the painting.

Raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens
The popular idea that the rhetorical gestures of Plato and Aristotle are kinds of pointing (to the heavens, and down to earth) is very likely. However, Plato’s Timaeus – which is the book Raphael places in his hand – was a sophisticated treatment of space, time, and change, including the Earth, which guided mathematical sciences for over a millennium. Aristotle, with his four-elements theory, held that all change on Earth was owing to motions of the heavens. In the painting Aristotle carries his Ethics, which he denied could be reduced to a mathematical science. It is not certain how much the young Raphael knew of ancient philosophy, what guidance he might have had from people such as Bramante and whether a detailed program was dictated by his sponsor, Pope Julius II.
The identities of some of the philosophers in the picture, such as Plato and Aristotle, are certain. Beyond that, identifications of Raphael’s figures have always been hypothetical. To complicate matters, beginning from Vasari’s efforts, some have received multiple identifications, not only as ancients but also as figures contemporary with Raphael. Vasari mentions portraits of the young Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, leaning over Bramante with his hands raised near the bottom right, and Raphael himself. [11]

Raphael paints his masterpiece the school of athens
The work was universally accepted due to it’s thematic beauty and subject richness.
The painting represents all the greatest scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians from classical antiquity gathered together sharing their ideas and learning from each other. These great artists and scientists lived at different times, but Raphael brought them together under one roof for this painting. Art historians have identified famous personalities such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Leonardo Da Vinci, Diogenes etc.



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