raphaels school of athens versus the calling of st.matthew
Melchiorre Caffà (1635–1667) was the pupil of Ferrata and executed ‘The ecstasy of Saint Catherine’ in S Catherina da Siena a Monte Magnapoli in Rome, before his early death.
Two of the leading figures in the emergence of Baroque painting in Italy were Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and Annibale Carracci.
One of the most typical of these works – and thus among the most а propos for purposes of analysis – is The Crucifixion of Saint Peter (figure 17), finished by Caravaggio when he was already one of the stars of the Roman artistic world. What is there worth commenting about it?
One aspect that immediately catches the eye is the crowdedness of the painting. Caravaggio fills his canvas primarily with people. People doing something. He presents us with an action in progress, rather than a static, portrait-like image or with an event already finished.
As viewers and art historians have frequently observed, Caravaggio’s art is heavily dramatic, theatrical in spirit, as befits an age – the seventeenth century – of very theatrical bent in all areas of life. In The Crucifixion we don’t have the visual paraphernalia suggesting the stage, as we do in The Death of the Virgin or in other paintings, where the panoply hanging over the individuals delineated could be a raised curtain, but none of the other ingredients are missing.
The immense marble structure is decorated with pagan sculpture. The statues of Apollo and Minerva represent the world of myth. Plato’s face shows a distinct resemblance to that of Leonardo Da Vinci. He’s at the center of the fresco, pointing upward, indicating the world of ideas. To his left, Aristotle points downward to pay homage to the natural world. Socrates, meanwhile, debates with the citizens of Athens. Around these central figures stand other major philosophers and mathematicians of the period, including Pythagoras, Xenon, and Diogenes. Euclid, drawn to look like Bramante, can be seen teaching his students. Nearby, Zoroaster holds up a sphere of the heavens while Ptolemy studies a globe that represents earth. A thoughtful Heraclitus bears some resemblance to the painter Michelangelo. Raphael was paying homage to him after having seen the Sistine Chapel frescoes in 1511. Four figures peer from the painting toward the viewer with deeply heartfelt gazes. These are the female figure in a white robe, two small girls, and a self-portrait of Raphael. The simple gestures of the debating philosophers help render the abstractness of philosophy human.
The fresco known as The School of Athens was painted by Raphael between 1510 and 1511. In it, Aristotle and Plato hold court with other ancient philosophers in an idealized setting. By the start of the 1500s, Raphael’s fame — particularly for his renditions of the Virgin Mary — had spread to Rome. In 1508, noted architect Bramante introduced Raphael into the papal court, which was beginning to finance major artistic projects and would soon become an important meeting place for humanists and intellectuals.
Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to paint the “Stanze,” originally intended as suite of apartments. In them, the Pope sought a synthesis between classical culture and the Christian message. The pope’s private library was located in the “Stanza della Segnatura.” Raphael decorated its walls with four frescoes, metaphors for spiritual truth, justice, and beauty. The fourth was an allegory of rational truth. This was “The School of Athens,” an imposing 7.7-meter-wide work. Perspective in the composition converges toward the center.
One of the big changes in art was to paint and sculpt subjects realistically. This is called realism and involves a number of techniques that make the subjects and background look like they would in real life. This also meant giving the subjects more emotional qualities.
Sfumato – This was a technique used by Leonardo da Vinci to add additional perspective and dimension to paintings. It was a way of blurring the lines between subjects. This technique was used in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa.
In 1508, at the very peak of the High Renaissance, a 25-year-old Raphaël and his school are summoned to the Vatican by his holiness Pope Julius II. His task would be to create works alongside other artist in a single section of the Pontiff’s apartments. However, Raphaël’s proposition stimulated such enthusiasm in the Pope that all other artist’s work had to be destroyed so that Raphaël could paint all four rooms. Here we will look at one these walls and arguably the most mesmerizing painting of the High Renaissance – The School of Athens.
But this painting is not solely a celebration of ancient philosophy but also liberal arts (statues of Apollo and Minerva), grammar, mathematics, music (can all be seen in the group in the foreground on the left), astronomy, geometry (are represented in the foreground on the right), rhetoric and also dialectic (the two standing statues in the background). Raphaël also wishes to honour his generation. To do this he incorporates features of his contemporaries in the greater philosopher. Michelangelo, his great rival, can be seen in Heraclitus (his elbow on a marble block in the foreground), Bramante is found in Euclid (on the right foreground group bent over a blackboard) but the greatest honour is given to Leonardo da Vinci whose beard is found on Plato himself.