Raphael's masterpieces (was: Re: Why life is unfair for so many...)

From: Amara Graps (amara@amara.com)
Date: Wed Feb 06 2002 - 01:49:47 MST

-xx- Damien Raphael Sullivan X-) wrote:

>Apart from experimenting with my middle name as a last name. (Too many
>Damien Sullivans out there.)

Do you mind if I use your middle name to say a few words about art
at the Vatican Museums? I saw some wonderful art there a week ago,
and it's on my mind.

Some people may be surprised to discover that near center of Roman
Catholic faith houses one of the world's great collections of
Classical and Renaissance art. Egyptian and Assyrian art, Etruscan
art, Greek and Roman art, Medieval art, and Renaissance art.

While Michelangelo (the 'solitary genius') was nearby painting the
ceiling of the Sistine chapel, a young fellow named Raphael
(Raffaello) was effortlessly sythesizing lyrical and dramatic
elements into a style that captures much of the Renaissance. He was
commissioned by Pope Julius II to decorate a series of rooms in the
Vatican Palace. The first room, the Stanza della Segnatura,
might have housed the pope's library, and this room contained one my
favorite works in the Vatican (The School of Athens). In this room,
Raphael's cycle of frescoes on its walls and ceiling refers to four
particular domains of learning: theology, philosophy, law, and the
arts, which some humanists see as a a parallel in the four elements
making up the universe: air, water, fire and earth. Each of these is
represented by an allegorical painting on the walls of this room:
the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, the School of Athens, the
Parnassus and the Virtues (Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance),

Of these the "School of Athens" is Raphael's masterpiece. Its
subject is a group of famous Greek philosophers and mathematicians
each in a characteristic pose or activity. Raphael must have already
seen the Sistine Ceiling, when was then nearing completion. He owes
to Michelangelo the expressive energy and physical power of his
figures (Michelangelo's muscle-bound superhumans literally leap at
you from the ceiling), but he absorbed that power into his own
style, giving it a different meaning. Every action and emotional
element is harmoniously balanced. A terrific purposeful clarity to
this fresco. In this painting you will see: Euclid, Diogenes,
Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Raphael (himself), Sodoma, Heracleitus (features
of Michelangelo), Socrates, Xenophon, Eschines, Alcibiades, Plato,
Aristotle and Pythagoras.

I studied this painting a bit. and found web sites that show each of
the School of Athens figures, so you can see a little for yourself.


The School of Athens - 72K

The School of Athens : Center view - 290K

The School of Athens : Right view - 97K

The School of Athens : Left view - 128K

[On this side of the painting is Pythagoras too
Pythagoras, with pinkish shirt, resting large book on left knee,
pointing to page in the book.]

At this web site you can click on some of the individual characters:

For example, here is Aristotle, along with some web links of his

Better close up views:

The School of Athens: Plato and Aristotle - 74K

The School of Athens: Socrates, Xenophon, Eschines and Alcibiades - 113K

The School of Athens: Heracleitus (features of Michelangelo) - 68K

The School of Athens: Euclid (features of Bramante) - 77K

The School of Athens: Diogenes reclining on the steps - 71K

The School of Athens: A group of wise men - 94K

The School of Athens: Zoroaster, Ptolemy, Raphael and Sodoma - 94K


The other Rahael fresco in that room that I liked alot was Mount Parnassus.

(The following are words on the Web describing this fresco)

{begin quote}
Mount Parnassus, the home of Apollo, is, like the hill of the
Vatican, a place where in ancient times there was a shrine to Apollo
dedicated to the arts. This has a direct bearing on the picture
because through the window on the wall where the fresco is painted
there is a view of the Cortile del Belvedere and the hill of the
Vatican. There were newly discovered classical sculptures in the
Cortile, such as the Ariadne that Raphael used as a model for the
muse to the left of Apollo.

Raphael in several sketches significantly changed some of the
details, including the musical instruments used. In the early
versions Apollo played on a traditional stylized classical lyre, but
this fresco shows him playing a Renaissance lira da braccio with a
bow. The bow was unknown in Antiquity, although later they
attributed its invention to Sappho. It has nine, instead of seven,
strings to match the number of Muses; this, in Raphael's conception,
signifies timelessness, just as the fact that the most eminent
classical and contemporary poets are depicted together. Homer is
flanked by Virgil and Dante, Ovid and Horace are next to Sappho,
while from the "ranks" of moderns we can identify Petrarch,
Boccaccio and Ariosto.

While working on this fresco, the artist may have become acquainted
with that ancient sarcophagus from Asia Minor which is adorned with
the relief sculpture of the nine Muses. This was his source for the
three additional instruments shown in this fresco: Erato's kithara,
to the right of Apollo, the Lydian aulos of Eutherpe, on the other
side, and below, the strange, tortoise-shell lyre of Sappho - all of
which he rendered striving for archeological accuracy.

In this fresco, music fills the role of moving force behind the
Apollonian universe, at the same time being the symbol of poetry.
{end quote}

Mount Parnassus : Center view - 330K

Mount Parnassus : Left view - 135K

Mount Parnassus : Right view - 108K

Mount Parnassus: Poets in conversation and Sappho - 108K

Mount Parnassus: Poets in conversation and Horace - 94K

Mount Parnassus: A group of muses - 122K

See individual details from here and click on figure in left
column to work with "Image Viewer"




Hope you enjoyed this extropian's enthusiastic description of these
two works by Raffaello... Have a good day.


Amara Graps, PhD email: amara@amara.com
Computational Physics vita: ftp://ftp.amara.com/pub/resume.txt
Multiplex Answers URL: http://www.amara.com/
"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." --Anais Nin

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