school of athens painting technique
Stanza della Segnatura
For the meaning of other masterpieces, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.
There are two sculptures in the background. The one on the left is the god Apollo, god of light, archery and music, holding a lyre.  The sculpture on the right is Athena, goddess of wisdom, in her Roman guise as Minerva. 
Nevertheless, the fresco has even recently been interpreted as an exhortation to philosophy and, in a deeper way, as a visual representation of the role of Love in elevating people toward upper knowledge, largely in consonance with contemporary theories of Marsilio Ficino and other neo-Platonic thinkers linked to Raphael. 
Cartoon: Full-size preparatory drawings made for the purpose of transferring a design to the working surface of a painting. View the cartoon for The School of Athens.
Fresco: Mural painting technique in which permanent limeproof pigments, dispersed in water, are painted on freshly laid lime plaster.
Giornata: Area of a fresco that is executed within the course of a single day (from the Italian word “giorno” meaning “day”).
Another piece by Raphael, and arguably his most famous, School of Athens, was painted between 1509 and 1511. School of Athens showcases Raphael’s painting techniques because of its perfection and beauty. With all of these people in a huge white room, Raphael really brings out the elaborate colors and details of the people. Being one of his pieces created later in his life, he really pulled together all of his techniques learned from teaching, painting previous pieces and being a student of Perugino. Along with this stunning painting, Raphael intentionally places people in specific locations in the painting.
Taking Raphael four total years to complete, this incredible piece it has many interesting details and symbols. For example, there are two people intentionally placed in the middle/vanishing point of this painting, Aristotle on the Right and Plato on the left. These were two very important philosophers during Ancient Greece times. Since Raphael was very intrigued by these two he put them in the dead center and himself below them, showing how selfless of person he was. Not only did this piece show philosophers it also included many important mathematicians and scientists like Pythagoras (hence Pythagorean Theorem). Raphael used many techniques in his painting like vanishing point and perspective. He used perspective with the gradually fading magnificent building in the background and also with the many people. If you didn’t notice, the people in the front are slightly larger than the many behind them. Raphael’s piece captures the spirit of the Renaissance because it focuses on many “critical thinkers” which were very important during the Renaissance, right after the Black Plague, but also to us today. These people dedicated their lives and professions to figuring out never imagined ideas about the human body, art, math and science. If it were not for them, we would definitely not know as much about technology, medicine, math, science and the human body as we do today. Raphael’s School of Athens was his best piece and my personal favorite of the Renaissance.
In the 15th century, a tradition of decorating private libraries with portraits of great thinkers was common. Raphael took the idea to a whole new level with massive compositions that reflected philosophy, theology, literature, and jurisprudence. Read as a whole, they immediately transmitted the intellect of the pope and would have sparked discussion between cultured minds that were lucky enough to enter into this private space.
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.