the school of athens raphael
Apollo, recognizable by his lyre, represents the natural philosophy side. As the god of light, music, truth, and healing, his position puts him adjacent to Raphael’s Parnassus fresco representing literature and poetry.
Raphael certainly would have been privy to private showings of the Sistine Chapel in progress that were arranged by Bramante. Though Raphael’s work, in many ways, could be seen as more complex due to the number of figures placed in one scene, he certainly was influenced by the great artist’s work. This is particularly evident by the long figure thinking in the foreground, as we’ll soon see.
A number of drawings made by Raphael as studies for the School of Athens are extant.  A study for the Diogenes is in the Städel in Frankfurt  while a study for the group around Pythagoras, in the lower left of the painting, is preserved in the Albertina Museum in Vienna.  Several drawings, showing the two men talking while walking up the steps on the right and the Medusa on Athena’s shield,  [a] the statue of Athena (Minerva) and three other statues,  a study for the combat scene in the relief below Apollo  and “Euclid” teaching his pupils  are in the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at Oxford University.
Finally, according to Giorgio Vasari, the scene includes Raphael himself, the Duke of Mantua, Zoroaster and some Evangelists. 
The School of Athens is a depiction of philosophy. The scene takes place in classical times, as both the architecture and the garments indicate. Figures representing each subject that must be mastered in order to hold a true philosophic debate – astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, and solid geometry – are depicted in concrete form. The arbiters of this rule, the main figures, Plato and Aristotle, are shown in the centre, engaged in such a dialogue.
If in the Dispute, the central axis contains all the primary components of the meaning, in its counterpart on the opposite wall – The School of Athens – the emphasis is on a horizontal reading, and the main figures, located on the top of the short stairs, are strung out like an animated frieze. Such a distribution is related to the fact that in this fresco the stress is on earthly zones rather than on otherworldly ones so characteristic of its analogue. In the case of the Disputa, the golden tonalities reflect theological and spiritual values i n connection with the miraculous nature of the Eucharist; these are in contrast to the clear blues and whites and the crisp, charged atmosphere that characterizes The School of Athens. This is a realm where the power of philosophy and reason, as opposed to faith, seems to dominate.
Sadly during the Sack of Rome in 1527, the troops of Charles V damaged quite a bit of the School of Athens and on a quiet day in the Vatican Museums, if you get a chance to look closely at the fresco you can still today see stabbed mark graffiti on the fresco painting.
To see the School of Athens painting today you must enter into the Vatican Museums by taking a tour, standing in line or pre-booking your skip the line tickets. You will find the painting in the so-called Raphael Rooms (Stanze di Raffaello) on your way to the Sistine Chapel. The museums are a one-way system so you will have to go to the Raphael Rooms to exit the museums.
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.
An important feature of this work, as in all Raphael’s paintings, is the artist’s use of his Renaissance colour palette – in this case, to highlight certain characters and to control the attention of the viewer. See how certain hues act as reference points across the canvas.