Friday, March 27, 2009

The School of Athens - History podcast of the Day

The School of Athens ;
Despite commissioning the Sistine Chapel, Pope Julius II is better known as a warrior than a scholar. But when he did put down the sword and pick up a book, he would have done so under a magnificent if slightly unexpected fresco. It is called The School of Athens, it was painted by Raphael in 1509 and it sits in a room in the Vatican that housed Julius’ private library.

The School of Athens depicts an imaginary scene in which all the philosophers of antiquity are gathered together. At their centre stand Plato and Aristotle, deep in discussion. Plato is pointing at the sky and Aristotle at the ground.

In that pairing of gestures, Raphael captured something essential about the philosophies of these two men, but he also revealed much about his own time. That such a pagan pair could be found beside a Pope in private tells of the complexity of intellectual life at the time when classical learning was reborn in what we now call the Renaissance.

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