Visual analysis assignment, discussing Raphael and the fresco, The School of Athens, (1510-1511). It measures 5.79 x 8.24m and is housed in The Stanza della Segnatura, Vatican, Rome.
Raffaello Sanzio or Santi (1483 – died Rome 1520) was a major art figure in the age of the Renaissance. He was “one of the greatest portrait artists of all time and one of the greatest painters of classical figure groups”1 Gerard Le grand in his studies of Renaissance Art agrees with this statement. “He helped to define the Italian High Renaissance.” 2 Raphael’s artistic education began early. His father Giovanni Santi was a painter in the Montefeltro court.3 Raphael in subsequent years trained as a painter and gradually surpassed his teachers. Raphael was possibly a student of Perugino as their painting style was very similar but as Raphael progressed in his studies; his compositions superseded his teacher’s works. “He surpasses his influential mentor Perugino in the rendering of tender yet powerful beauty.” 4 It was in 1508 that Raphael was summoned by Pope Julius II to work for the Vatican and it is where Raphael created the monumental work, School of Athens. “In 1508 Raphael was summoned by Pope Julius II to work for the Vatican, where he produced his celebrated frescoes and established his own workshop.”5 The age of the Renaissance needs to be understood in order to study and comprehend the School of Athens fresco and its underlying meanings. The ideas and knowledge of Ancient Greece were of paramount importance at this time especially in regards to the practise of art. “It was an era when ancient practices were given a new birth. The name Renaissance was commonly used as well as other definitions, renovation and restitution. This also explains why the artists saw themselves as revolutionaries. They saw their own potential; they had a desire to exist. It was a remarkable feat of self assertion.”6 The humanist ideology and followers of this movement helped to reinvent Classical Greek culture. Petrarch was the most famous of the humanists and was the first to put forward the idea of returning to Classical Antiquity. “That this return could only be a new beginning and not simply a matter of blind faith.”1 The humanists were involved in translating ancient texts, such as Plato’s Timaeus and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. 2 “They also wanted to reconcile Platonism with a well assimilated aristotelianism but also with the three main religions Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”3 These rediscovered ancient texts “could restore man to a place in a cosmos that was ordered differently from the Aristotelian cosmos”.4 Humanism and its influence transformed the Renaissance artists’ practice, their methods of painting and the subjects expressed. “The ideas of the Ancient Greeks transformed the fields of philology, medicine and theology.”5 The reinterpretation of the sciences, mathematics and physics can be seen with the new developments in painting at this time. “To talk about ‘renaissance art’ is to talk first and foremost about the broader cultural phenomenon of the Renaissance itself.”6 The Renaissance was not a time whereby the ideals of Classical Greece were just regurgitated. It was “the imitation of antiquity which must not be interpreted as a rigid concept.”7 Certain inventions were being introduced in relation to painting during the Renaissance. Legrand gives a chronology of events in relation to the theory of perspective.8 “In 1300 Giotto introduced elementary rational perspective. It is legend that Giotto drew freehand a perfect circle, firmly establishing the art of draughtsmanship even though he had no grasp of mathematical science underlying it. In the 1330 and 1400 artists became aware of measurement, using guide marks to help paint the surface of the walls for frescoes. In 1342 – 4, Ambrogio Lorenzetti understood the near approximation and definition of a vanishing point. It was also understood that the...
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