Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The School of Athens - Part 2

The painting is said to hold many different thinkers and artists, however only a few of them can be identified. The lady with a baby on Plato’s left is said to be the poet Sappho. The man in the yellow robe on Plato’s left is said to be Socrates, his teacher. Another famous figure would be the mathematician; Pythagoras who is shown teaching his theory that reality consists of numbers and harmonic ratios. He is located on the bottom left side of the painting surrounded by his students. The chalkboard that is being held by one of his students has a drawing of the divine tetraktys. The dark-skinned scholar in the white turban and green robe who is leaning over Pythagoras is said to be the Arabic philosopher Averroes. It is because of him that Plato and Aristotle’s philosophies were transmitted in the west. At the bottom right side of the painting is a concentrated group of people whom many of them are important figures. The old balding man who is on his knees is the figure of either Euclid or Archimedes who is using a compass to demonstrate a geometrical proposition. The one in the yellow robes standing behind him is said to be Ptolemy, an astronomer and geographer. He is holding the globe of the earth. Behind him is the astronomer and philosopher Zoroaster. He is holding a sphere of the fixed stars. Raphael, the artist of The School of Athens, is located to the right of Zoroaster and Ptolemy. He is the only figure that is staring right back at us.
The man that is lying down in the stairs in front of Aristotle is Diogenes. He was a philosopher who lived very poorly in a barrel in the streets. He was visited by Alexander the Great and was offered anything he wanted. However, he rudely refused. The man located in the front row below Plato who seems to be lost in thought is said to be the philosopher Heraclitus. He was said to be a solitary figure, hence why he is sitting alone. Heraclitus was added last, when the entire artwork was complete. Story goes that Heraclitus looks a lot like Michelangelo, Raphael’s rival. Raphael had secretly managed to take a peak at Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. He had then added Heraclitus but what was odd was that it looked as if it were Michelangelo himself who had painted it. Back then; imitation was a form of flattery.
Raphael had included himself in his painting as well as important thinkers and his friends. He had included the painter Sodoma who is standing next to him in the painting. The humanist scholar Pietro Bembo, one of his friends, was said to have modeled Zoroaster and the architect Bramante was represented by Euclid (or Archimedes). Plato himself represents his teacher, Leonardo de Vinci.
All in all, I found the painting extremely fascinating because it holds so much history from different periods of the Renaissance. There is a story behind practically every thinker in this painting and there is a subtle explanation of their teachings, such as Plato’s and Aristotle’s books, their posture, the globe of the world held by Ptolemy, the drawing of the divine tetraktys held by Pythagoras’ student etc. The inclusion of Raphael’s friends used to represent thinkers was well thought of. The inclusion of Heraclitus as a way to flatter Michelangelo and his self-portrait are a very fascinating part in the artwork. The architecture as well as the play with lines to find a focus point in the painting is also very captivating. Ly-Ann was right by saying that this painting was intriguing and that I had to analyze it.

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