The School of Athens

“One of four frescoes by Raphael (1483-1520) painted c. 1509 in the Stanza della Segnatura, a room in the papal apartments in the Vatican. The work was commissioned by Pope Julius II, who also commissioned Donato Bramante to design the new St. Peter’s and Michelangelo to design his tomb and (against his will) to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling. The frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura are intended to demonstrate how neoplatonist philosophy justifies the power of the Roman Catholic Church. The School of Athens depicts Plato and Aristotle and a host of other philosophers, both ancient and modern, in a calm and balanced composition. The classical architectural setting–reminiscent of the new St. Peter’s–was painted from designs by Bramante, who himself acted as the model for the mathematician Euclid in the painting. Raphael’s portrait of his patron, Pope Julius, is in the National Gallery, London.

‘It took a soul as beautiful as his, in a body as beautiful as his, to experience and rediscover the true character of ancients in modern times.'”

Johann J. Winckelmann: on Raphael, in Thoughts on the Imitiation of Greek Art in Painting and Sculpture (1755)

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

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