Analysis of Raphael´s Painting The School of Athens Essay

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The School of Athens (Figure 1) is a fresco painting–a painting done in sections in the fresh plaster–on one of the four walls of the room, the Stanza della Segnatura this room is designated as papal library in the Vatican palace. In this image Raphael represents pictorially the intellectual activity of philosophy. He chooses to represent philosophy by depicting a large number of philosophers in the midst of their activities. The fifty-eight figures who occupy the grandiose architectural space are depicted in the midst of their activity: they are questioning, arguing, demonstrating, reading, and writing. Each figure is characterized so that it is not a mere compositional device, but a shorthand statement of the figure represented (Murray, …show more content…
(Most, 146) One example of this traditional depiction of philosophy is Gregorius Reisch’s frontispiece in his encyclopedic book, Margarita philosophica, (Figure 2) (Most, 147).
When analyzing Raphael’s School of Athens one needs to understand in what relation his work stands to these previous artistic traditions. A tondo on the vault above The School of Athens depicts a female figure seated on a throne holding two books entitled Moralis and Naturalis while beside her, two heroic children lift the labels "Causarum" and "Cognitio" (Figure 3). This figure is a traditional allegory designating Dame Philosophy and is interpreted as a direct continuation of the medieval traditions of allegorical representations of philosophy (Most, 149). Raphael chose to refer to the pervious artistic traditions but only to make the statement that he was breaking fundamentally with them. In The School of Athens he completely eliminates allegory and draws our attention to the secular idea of philosophy as constituted by the activities of real philosophers. (Most, 157). Raphael’s choice to eliminate allegory and replace it with the practice of real human philosophers split his relation to tradition, thus he brought to life a new, autonomous artistic creature. The

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