the school of athens analysis
Further to the right, calmly reclining on the stairs, is Diogenes, the oject of the remonstrations by the disciples of the Academy. In the foreground, to the right of Aristotle, Raphael placed the High Renaissance architect Donato Bramante (1444-1514) in the person of Euclid, who is pictured bending over a table and demonstrating a theorem with the aid of a compass. Bramante, the architectural adviser to Julius II, and a distant relative of Raphael’s from Urbino, was responsible for Raphael’s summons to Rome, and the younger man reciprocates by signing his name in the gold border of Bramante’s tunic. Over to the right, identified by the crown he wears, is the geographer Ptolemy, holding the globe of the earth. Facing him is the atronomer Zoroaster, holding the globe of the sky. The young man at their side and facing the viewer is supposedly Raphael himself in the company of Sodoma (white robe), the artist who preceded Raphael in the decoration of the ceiling of the Signature room.
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.
School of Athens is one of a series of four frescoes painted by Raphael representing branches of knowledge. The frescoes, located on the walls of the Stanza, include images descriptive of philosophy, poetry, law, and theology. School of Athens is dedicated to philosophy as a path to knowledge, especially related to understanding causes to drive knowledge. All of the philosophers shown in the fresco traditionally sought knowledge through an understanding of root causes, tying back to the title and theme of the fresco. The overall theme of knowledge is integrated through Raphael”s frescos around the room but School of Athens is considered the best of the series.
The other figures shown in the fresco representing other significant Greek philosophers are not as clearly identifiable. While some are more recognizable than others, some of the figures may represent philosophers where no historical image exists. Raphael used iconography to represent those philosophers with no known visual image such as Epicurus. While Plato and Aristotle serve as the central figures of the fresco, the other philosophers depicted lived at various times and were not necessarily their contemporaries. Many of them lived before Plato and Aristotle and barely a third were Athenians. However, the compilation of famous Greek philosophers followed the intended theme of the fresco to seek knowledge through philosophy.
The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has a rectangular version over 4 metres by 8 metres in size, painted on canvas, dated 1755 by Anton Raphael Mengs on display in the eastern Cast Court. 
It is popularly thought that their gestures indicate central aspects of their philosophies, for Plato, his Theory of Forms, and for Aristotle, an emphasis on concrete particulars. Many interpret the painting to show a divergence of the two philosophical schools. Plato argues a sense of timelessness whilst Aristotle looks into the physicality of life and the present realm.
Set in an immense architectural illusion painted by Raphael, The School of Athens is a masterpiece that visually represents an intellectual concept. In one painting, Raphael used groupings of figures to lay out a complex lesson on the history of philosophy and the different beliefs that were developed by the great Greek philosophers.
Take a virtual tour of the Stanza della Segnatura via the Vatican Museums website.
Though the school of Athens is not necessarily defined by its use of color, its philosophical content displays a wide variety of colors.
Raphael’s concept for the School of Athens was to bring into harmony the spirits of antiquity and Christianity and reflect the contents of the pope’s library with themes of theology, philosophy, jurisprudence and the poetic arts. Raphael’s inspiration for the room is worldly and spiritual wisdom displaying the accord which Renaissance humanists perceived between Christian and Greek philosophy. The theme of wisdom is an appropriate inspiration as this room was the council chamber for the Apostolic Signatura where most of the important papal documents were signed and sealed.