The School of Athens is a painting produced between 1509 and 1511 by the Italian renaissance artist Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio).
The work was universally accepted due to it’s thematic beauty and subject richness.
This picture is considered as “Raphael’s masterpiece and the perfect embodiment of the classical spirit of Renaissance. Pope Julius II commissioned Raphael to decorate the Stanze di Raffaello, palace in Vatican city.
The painting represents all the greatest scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians from classical antiquity gathered together sharing their ideas and learning from each other. These great artists and scientists lived at different times, but Raphael brought them together under one roof for this painting. Art historians have identified famous personalities such as Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Pythagoras, Euclid, Leonardo Da Vinci, Diogenes etc.
The School of Athens is one of a group of four main frescoes on the walls of the Stanza Della Segnatura (A suite of reception rooms in Vatican Palace), whereby these frescoes represent four distinctive themes – “Seek Knowledge of Causes”, “Divine Inspiration”, “Knowledge of Things Divine” and “To Each What Is Due.” All these four themes represent and explains the classic origin of theology, law, music, poetry, literature and philosophy.
The composition of the personalities depicted in the painting stays non-linear, and rightfully bringing in the breadth and depth of grandiose architectural framework. The high dome, vault, decorated frescoes, lacunar ceilings and huge pillars blend very well with characters in the work. The School of Athens represent the knowledge acquired through reason.
Famous art historian Heinrich Wölfflin says, “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. What is evident is Raphael’s artistry in orchestrating 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”