who painted this renaissance fresco the school of athens
One of the Raphael’s Room in Apostolic Palace
Stanza della Segnatura (Room of the Signatura)
The room is named after the highest court of the Holy See, the “Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae”, presided over by the Pope and used for meetings. The celebration of knowledge in the frescoes (theology, philosophy, poetry and jurisprudence), made me think that the hall was originally designed to accommodate the study and the library of the Pope. In main scenes Raphael refused to make a simple portrait gallery. They had done so for example in the Collegio del Cambio Perugino or Pinturicchio in the Borgia. Instead he tried to involve the characters in action, characterizing them with movements and expressions. This is particularly evident since the first fresco, the Dispute. Themes typical of the Renaissance, as the correlation between ancient wisdom and modern, pagan and Christian, poetry as a source of revelation and knowledge, justice as the culmination of the ethical virtues, are thus to be represented completely natural and direct . Instead of hermetic representations of its predecessors Raphael created scenes that appeared concrete and eloquent.
They look to tired critics like mere busts
In galleries, but wittingly collected,
By bold anachronism resurrected,
This flesh so warm a skeptic almost trusts
The felt, unliteral fidelity
That framed them under sky and vaulting roof:
The red-cloaked Heracleitus still aloof,
Parmenides still pondering “to be,”
Young Aristotle marking out this world,
Old Plato pointing upward to the forms.
Behind them rise dear clouds, heartbreaking storms,
Lightning that Zeus and gray Jehovah hurled,
And from a corner, winkingly alive,
The face of Raphael at twenty five.
The Signature Room contains three of Raphael’s best known works – the School of Athens, the Parnassus, and the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament. Each wall represents one area of thinking: Theology, Poetry, Philosophy, and Justice, corresponding to the main fields of scientific knowledge. In the School of Athens, representing Philosophy, Plato and Aristotle are pictured at the centre of a group of other philosophers in a scene, set in Ancient Greece, which symbolizes the wisdom of classical antiquity. Arithmetic, Grammar, and Music are personified by certain figures: Geometry, Astronomy, Rhetoric and Dialectic by others. Above them is a majestic vaulted ceiling which may reflect Donato Bramante’s design for St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It was not the first fresco painted in the Stanza della Segnatura – the room already contained decorations by the Early Renaissance artists Piero della Francesca (1415-92), Perugino (1450-1523) and Luca Signorelli (1445-1523), but Julius II decided that these paintings were expendable, and could be painted over.
On the left, cloaked in an olive mantle, is Socrates, arguing in a group that includes Chrysippus, Xenophon, Aeschines and Alcibiades. Facing the venerable Venetian scientist Zeno, is Epicurus, crowned with grape leaves, presumably defending the principle of hedonism. Attentively followed by his pupils (including the turbanned Averroes) Pythagoras teaches the diatesseron from a book. In strong contrast in front of him is Xenocrates (others say Parmenides). In the foreground, head resting on his arm, the mournful Heracleitus (with the features of Michelangelo). The absence of this figure in the original cartoon (now in Milan’s Ambrosian Library) and its obvious Michelangelo style (it is modelled on the Sybils and Ignudi of the Sistine ceiling), leads us to believe that Raphael added this figure in 1511 when, after completing the room, he saw the first half of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling frescoes. In tribute to his great rival, Raphael portrayed Michelangelo in the guise of the philosopher from Ephesus. The child at the side of Epicurus, clearly indifferent to the speculations of the thinkers, seems to be Federico Gonzaga (1500-40), later Federico II of Mantua of the famous Gonzaga family of Renaissance patrons and collectors. The passer-by in white translucent toga and da Vinci smile, is supposedly Francesco Maria Della Rovere (1490-1538), nephew of Julius II and later Duke of Urbino.
Other reproductions include: in Königsberg Cathedral, Kaliningrad by Neide,  in the University of North Carolina at Asheville’s Highsmith University Student Union, and a recent one in the seminar room at Baylor University’s Brooks College. A copy of Raphael’s School of Athens was painted on the wall of the ceremonial stairwell that leads to the famous, main-floor reading room of the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris.
However, to Heinrich Wölfflin, “it is quite wrong to attempt interpretations of the School of Athens as an esoteric treatise . The all-important thing was the artistic motive which expressed a physical or spiritual state, and the name of the person was a matter of indifference” in Raphael’s time.  Raphael’s artistry then orchestrates a beautiful space, continuous with that of viewers in the Stanza, in which a great variety of human figures, each one expressing “mental states by physical actions,” interact, in a “polyphony” unlike anything in earlier art, in the ongoing dialogue of Philosophy. 
The School of Athens was the third painting Raphael completed after Disputa (representing theology) and Parnassus (representing literature). It’s positioned facing Disputa and symbolizes philosophy, setting up a contrast between religious and lay beliefs.
Conversely, Aristotle’s hand is a visual representation of his belief that knowledge comes from experience. Empiricism, as it is known, theorizes that humans must have concrete evidence to support their ideas and is very much grounded in the physical world.
School of Athens
From the right hand side particularly, the School of Athens invites the viewer to see another strong pair of diagonals starting from the extreme lower corners of the picture. Along these diagonals the heads of the Gods line up with their opposite philosophical heads (i. e. Apollo with Aristotle and vice versa). Therefore the dialectical interplay of ideas and reconciliation between the two philosophies goes on.