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School of Athens Painting by Raphael

School of Athens Painting by Raphael

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鈥淭he School of Athens鈥 is one of the most famous frescoes by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. The painting illustrates the greatest philosophers ever. It was painted between 1509 and 1511, as a part of Raphael's commission to decorate the rooms, now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

TP 201901 art 07

Room of the Segnatura


The Stanza della Segnatura was the first of the rooms to be decorated, and 鈥淭he School of Athens鈥, representing Philosophy, was probably the second painting to be finished there after 鈥淟a Disputa鈥 (Theology).


So, if we were thinking about Plato and Aristotle, two of the biggest three philosophers, keep in mind we鈥檝e got Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Each one of them taught the other. Plato was Socrates鈥 student, but never said he was his teacher. Aristotle was Plato鈥檚 student. Now if we want to contrast Plato and Aristotle, it is just as easy as looking at Raphael鈥檚 classic painting 鈥楾he school of Athens鈥, which was one of the most beautiful arts produced. As far as philosophy goes, we see in the middle of the painting Plato walking with his student Aristotle and he is pointing up. Plato is the idealist and that goes in all of his philosophies. The only thing real to Plato was an Idea.

TP 201901 art 08

We notice Plato pointing up and Aristotle is putting his hand over the ground. Aristotle is a realist, while Plato is an idealist. It seems in the painting that Aristotle is saying, 鈥淲ait a minute鈥, which means the only real thing to him is something real and that this physical world we live in is a real place. Aristotle鈥檚 realism was a rejection of Plato鈥檚 idealism. Plato produced the republic, and Aristotle produced the politics.


From the painting we can see Plato holding his book 鈥淭he Timeous鈥, pointing up to show his ideal forms and that mankind should focus intellectual energy on things which can be comprehensible by the human mind. A triangle built in the physical world cannot be perfect and it is destined to crumble. The idea triangle is however has property patterns true as for the Egyptian as us. This is why the entrance of Plato鈥檚 school academy had the warning 鈥渓et none ignorant of geometry enter here鈥.


Aristotle is seen holding his book 鈥淭he ethics鈥 pointing towards the earth. Aristotle was more concerned on the real physical world and ability to categorize huge amounts of information which can be easily understood.

TP 201901 art 09These two enter a room with many philosophers from many time periods. Most of these philosophers were mathematicians. We can see Pythagoras and Euclid who wrote one of the greatest text books on geometry ever. There is a picture of a woman, Alexandria, who died in 15 C. One of the most interesting things in this painting which Raphael had used is that in real model of Plato isn鈥檛 just him, but also Leonardo da Vinci.


In the painting we notice that they are wearing different colors according to their division. Plato is wearing red referring to fire, and purple referring to 鈥榯he ether鈥 meaning air, neither of which have weight. Aristotle is seen wearing brown which refers to earth and blue as water.

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