SCHOOL OF ATHENS
The fresco of “Philosophy” in the Camera della Segnatura, Vatican Palace, Rome.
Height to arched top 16 feet; width 26 feet 8 inches
This splendid fresco was painted by Raphael in 1511 to represent the “Triumph of Science,” as a companion painting to the Dispute of the Sacrament, representing the “Triumph of Religion.” Philosophy, implying an encyclopedic knowledge of the whole sphere of scientific learning and intellectual culture, is here symbolised. A vast portico is pictured, the arches of which are pierced with statue-filled niches; the facing statues are Apollo and Minerva. The central figures are Plato and Aristotle. Grouped about them are all the philosophers, sages, and elders of antiquity discussing the problem of life. Diogenes is prone on the steps; Aristippus passes him talking to Protagoras; to the left, on the steps, Alcibiades, Xenophon and others are listening to Socrates. Below them are Pythagoras, with his wife Theano, his son Telauges, and his pupil Archytas; Anaxagoras is standing; Heraclitus sits alone, Democritus and Epicurus at the base of the pillar. To the right, on the steps are Pyrrho, Arcesilaus and others; below them Archimedes (a portrait of Bramante) teaches geometry, and Ptolemy and Zoroaster stand beside Raphael, Il Sodoma, and Perugino. Vasari says the fresco represents the union of Theology and Philosophy through Astronomy, and points out Saint Matthew as Pythagoras. It has also been said to represent Saint Paul preaching at Athena, and in 1560 Giorgio Mantovano engraved it as Saint Paul disputing with the Stoics and Epicureans.