Archive for ‘Art’

August 9, 2012

The Beginning of the Left: The School of Athens

Plato and Aristotle walk together in the center of the canvas under a marble archway surrounded by ancient scholars, including Pythagoras, Euclid, Socrates, and Ptolemy. An aged and wise-looking Plato points to the sky with one finger, symbolizing his Theory of Forms, which concludes that abstract ideas, not the material world, are the highest form of reality. Meanwhile a considerably younger-looking and robust Aristotle holds his right hand out facing down as if palming an invisible basketball, silently referencing his philosophy of empiricism, or truth through the study of objective reality. (an excerpt from the book ‘I am John Galt’ by Donald Luskin & Andrew Greta.)

The School of Athens

Painted by Raphael in 1510-1511, The School of Athens is the epitome of Renaissance artwork.  Immediately, by looking at the painting, one can tell that there is a frenzy of people doing different things.  However everyone in the painting is doing something involving education.  The group of people huddled around Plato and Aristotle are the main thinkers of the classical world.  On the bottom left of the painting are the mathematicians, huddled around Pythagoras, who is introducing his theory that ultimate reality is made up of numbers and harmonic ratios.  On the right side of the painting, another group is paying close attention to the work of Euclid or Archimedes as he demonstrates geometric compositions with a pair of compasses.  Heraclitus, who is sitting by himself on the right side of the painting is the only solitary figure in the painting.  He was a pre-Socratic philosopher whose theories were not understood by anyone.  One of the most notable points of this painting is the vanishing point created by the pillars in the background.  The vanishing point is centered on the hand of Aristotle, who is the main focus of the painting.  By bringing in past philosophers, Raphael makes an unrivaled setting for the development of humanitarian thoughts.

Does it seem ironic that a painting that is promoting humanitarian thoughts was placed in the Vatican?  The Vatican and the Catholic church believed in strict obedience TO church dogma and tried to dispel any other beliefs that may have contradicted their own. The message that Raphael is trying to get across through this piece of art directly contradicts the ideas of the Church.  Looking at Plato and Aristotle in the center of the painting, it is easy to tell that Aristotle’s hand is pointing toward the ground and Plato, in the red robe, is pointing towards the sky, referring to the heavens.    Aristotle is trying to convince Plato that the answers lie on earth in physical science and practical reason.  This contradicts the church because it maintained that the heavens hold all the answers. (Silenos, Socrates)  It was a very bold move on the part of Raphael to put a painting of this nature in the Vatican and send a message to the church that would still be relevant today.

via Perseverance In the Face of the Church: The School of Athens.

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