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When the rooms were named, years after Raphael had painted them; the Stanza della Segnatura was the room in which the Signatura gratiae was held, a papal court where the pope sat as judge. This was a ...

When the rooms were named, years after Raphael had painted them; the Stanza della Segnatura was the room in which the Signatura gratiae was held, a papal court where the pope sat as judge. This was a division of the supreme tribunal of the Curia that the pope presided over. During the time of Julius II however, as mentioned, the room was most likely used as a library, especially due to how known his devotion to literature now is. The room as a whole represents the idea of knowledge in its entirety. The ceiling features female personifications of Theology, Poetry, Philosophy, and Justice. The frescoes on the walls below these; Disputa, Parnassus, School of Athens, and personifications of the Cardinal Virtues respectively, further their symbolism.2 While this room clearly displays an intellectual theme, the subjects of the individual pieces may not at once seem to connect well with each other, particularly the Disputation of the Most Holy Sacrament, better known as the Disputa, a very religious piece, and the School of Athens, a piece featuring philosophical personas. However Raphael was able to plan these two frescoes in a way in which they maintain their own meanings, and yet play off each other so well that they become complimentary to each other on facing walls.

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School Of Athens And Disputa Document Transcript

  • 1. School of Athens 1Running head: SCHOOL OF ATHENS AND DISPUTA: TWO TYPES OF KNOWLEDGE School of Athens and Disputa: Two Types of Knowledge Gina M. Martino John Cabot University
  • 2. School of Athens 2 School of Athens and Disputa: Two Types of Knowledge It is almost impossible to think of the Vatican without the Sistine Chapel within theVatican museum coming to mind, but the Vatican museum is home to some of the greatest worksof art by some of the most notable artists. One particular section that demands notice, areRaphael’s Stanze, a series of rooms with in which all the walls are covered by frescos byRaphael and his workshop, commissioned by Pope Julius II. There are four rooms in total, thetwo commissioned by Pope Julius II, and two commissioned by Pope Leo X. When Julius IIfirst set out to have the rooms painted, he actually commissioned a team of artists, but Raphaelimpresses the pope so much with his other works that the pope releases the team and gives theentire commission to Raphael. The first room, the Stanza della Segnatura (1509-1511) was thefirst room for Raphael to work on, and the only room to be completed during Julius II’s lifetime.Most likely, this room was used by Julius II as a library and featured art with the themes oftheology, poetry, philosophy, and justice. The second room Julius II commissioned was theStanza d’Eliodoro (1512-1514), but Raphael did not complete this room until after the death ofJulius II when Leo X was pope. This room featured frescoes that gave examples of heavenlyintervention against all those who would oppose the authority of the church.1 The next roomcommissioned was the Stanza dell’Incendio (1514-1517) the purpose of which is not certain.(Jones) The final room was the Stanza del Costantino (1519-1525), which was used as abanqueting hall and for official audiences, and is the only room in which all four of the frescoesare of the same subject, the Emperor Constantine.2 Each room contains four frescoes, one oneach wall. Some take up an entire wall while others forced Raphael to deal with large windowsand inconvenient door spaces. Each room has certain frescoes that tend to be the most famous,1 Hartt, 1987, p. 526.2 Jones, 1983, p. 239.
  • 3. School of Athens 3and these frescoes are usually what the room is named for. The only exception to this is theStanza della Segnatura.1 When the rooms were named, years after Raphael had painted them; the Stanza dellaSegnatura was the room in which the Signatura gratiae was held, a papal court where the popesat as judge. This was a division of the supreme tribunal of the Curia that the pope presidedover. During the time of Julius II however, as mentioned, the room was most likely used as alibrary, especially due to how known his devotion to literature now is. The room as a wholerepresents the idea of knowledge in its entirety. The ceiling features female personifications ofTheology, Poetry, Philosophy, and Justice. The frescoes on the walls below these; Disputa,Parnassus, School of Athens, and personifications of the Cardinal Virtues respectively, furthertheir symbolism.2 While this room clearly displays an intellectual theme, the subjects of theindividual pieces may not at once seem to connect well with each other, particularly theDisputation of the Most Holy Sacrament, better known as the Disputa, a very religious piece, andthe School of Athens, a piece featuring philosophical personas. However Raphael was able toplan these two frescoes in a way in which they maintain their own meanings, and yet play offeach other so well that they become complimentary to each other on facing walls. Probably the most striking difference between these two works is the fact that the Disputafeatures two tiers, the terrestrial and the celestial,34while the School of Athens, though containingvarious leveling, features a gathering of individuals who are within an equal space. Were thefigures to come to life, those on the lower level and those on the upper level could move amongsteach other. No matter how famous or revered a philosopher may be above his fellow1 Hart, 1987, p. 21.2 Jones, 1983, p. 50.3 Nahmad & Centi, 1983, p. 10.
  • 4. School of Athens 4philosophers, they are essentially all equals. Disputa’s tiers functions not necessarily to demotethose who are depicted within the terrestrial tier, but as a way to elevate the most spiritual andrevered of the Christian doctrine within the celestial realm. The figure of Jesus is surroundedby figures from the old and new testaments and those immediately circling him are Mary to theleft, the Holy Spirit below, St. John the Baptist to the right, and finally God above. Indeed,within the Christian world, what higher elevation is there? Even though religion does and did exist in the minds of philosophers, one must admit thatthe overall imagery of The School of Athens deals with the philosophy, math, and scientists thatso many of the great philosophers depicted were most known for. They debate these subjectsamongst themselves in small groups, and one can see the basic debates within the props theyhold. The Disputa on the other hand, while still a debate, it is a debate over the religiousdoctrine. In the center and directly in line with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is the Eucharist.As the theology in religion centers around the life of Jesus, so does the scene center around themetaphorical “body of Christ.” One of the most perplexing aspects of the School of Athens is that Raphael has chosen topaint subjects that have never before been seen. For many of these individuals, Raphael hasused the visages of his contemporaries in the guise of the ancient philosophers. Even those thatare not linked to a contemporary however, are still individuals who are unfamiliar andun-represented before the School of Athens. Art historians have debated for years over thesome of the individuals depicted and it is unlikely that we will ever know for sure who each andevery one of the philosophers is. The Disputa however, features figures who are either recentenough to have had their portraits or likenesses displayed previously, or for those who are not,are depicted in ways in which they have been by previous artists. In the case of six particular
  • 5. School of Athens 5individuals within the Disputa, their names are actually written in gold lettering onto theirhaloes.1 Probably the most noticeable feature of a painting, especially to one who has studied artin any capacity, is the focal point. Keeping with the religious theme of the Disputa, the focalpoint of the entire painting rests on the Eucharist. The focal point of the School of Athens is setin the opening behind Plato and Aristotle, on the sky itself. This could illicit one of twotheories. The first, being simply that the study of philosophy provides one with the truth, andwith freedom from the tribulations of the mortal world. The sky is light, and carefree. Theother theory, and the one that serves to link it best with the Disputa, is that to truly understandphilosophy, one should look to god, that god is the greatest philosopher of all.2 In this way, theperspectives could be seen as a difference or a similarity between the two facing frescoes,especially if the rest of the aspects of perspective are taken into account. Displayed withinperspectival arches as is common among all but one of the four rooms, they both also display agrid pattern on the floor. Despite the many apparent differences that can readily be identified, the essence of thetwo frescoes is the same. As they are in a room dedicated to knowledge and education, the bothsignify knowledge and truth. The Disputa conveys the idea of truth within divine relation andtheological learning while The School of Athens embodies the idea of truth as a result of rationalthought and secular learning.34 They are, of course, two different branches of knowledge, butknowledge none-the-less. Being featured in the papal apartments, the two areas of knowledgecan also be seen as an example of knowledge before and after Christ.1 Ettlinger, 1987, p. 86.2 Orth Bell, 1995, p. 646.3 De Vecchi, 2002, p. 154-167.
  • 6. School of Athens 6 Apart from the similarity in theme, there is a definite rhetorical continuity between thefrescoes. Both images feature grouping within the larger groups. Within these smallergroups, individuals are arguing, explaining, questioning, and discussing. There is also a clearuse of symbolism to show who individuals are, from the laurel leaf crown upon the head ofDante in the Disputa1 to props held by the various philosophers in School of Athens which relateto their area of study. A common symbol between both scenes is the use of books to identifyindividuals. The two central figures of School of Athens are so easily identified by scholarsbecause Plato holds a copy of the Timaeus, his work on cosmology, and Aristotle holds hisNichomachean Ethics, a book in which the nature of humanity and morals are discussed. In theforeground, Pythagoras is preoccupied by a book featuring the fundamental symbols of musicalharmony.2 Across the room, Jerome reads over his version of the Bible, Moses holds theTables of the Law,3 The City of God lies at the feat of Augustine, and the Moralia is nearGregory.4 Even further beyond these similarities however, beyond composition, meaning, andrhetoric, these two paintings are connected to one another. In a way, these two frescoes are notseparate pieces, but two parts of a whole. Some even theorize that two of the figures near thecenter of the Disputa are Plato (to the right of the alter, gesturing upwards) and Aristotle (to theleft of the alter with his back to the foreground), having continued the path straight out of theSchool of Athens and into the Disputa. In this way, the two individuals who formed the crucialfoundations for philosophy have moved beyond the limited knowledge of the spiritual world thatwas available in their times and have entered into the world of the Christian God and a world1 Nahmad & Centi, 1983, p. 10.2 De Vecchi, 2002, p. 154-167.3 Nahmad & Centi, 1983, p. 10.4 Ettlinger, 1987, p. 11.
  • 7. School of Athens 7filled with the Christian religion. Again, as these frescoes are featured in papal apartments,these two philosophers who were doomed to limbo in the mind of Dante have transcended timeand thus bear witness to the greatest knowledge of all.
  • 8. School of Athens 8 ReferencesDe Vecchi, P. (2002). Raphael. London: Abbeville Press Publishers.Ettlinger, L. D. & and Ettlinger H. S. (1987). Raphael. Oxford: Phaidon Press Limited.Hartt, F. & Wilkins, D. G. (1987). History of Italian Renaissance Art. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.Jones, R. & Penny, N. (1983). Raphael. London: Yale University Press.Nahmad, E. & Centi, L. (1983). Raphael in the Vatican. Italy: Officine Grafiche.Orth Bell, D. (1995). New identifications in Raphael’s School of Athens. The Art Bulletin 77(4), 639-646.
  • 9. School of Athens 9Figure 1
  • 10. School of Athens 10Figure 2
  • 11. School of Athens 11Figure 3
  • 12. School of Athens 12 Figure CaptionsFigure 1. School of AthensFigure 2. Disputation of the Most Holy SacramentFigure 3. The ceiling of the Stanza della Segnatura