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Current time:0:00Total duration:10:42

Video transcript

[Music] we're in the very crowded and not very large room called the stanza della signora that is not only dense with people but it's dense with imagery we're looking at frescoes by Raphael painted during the high Renaissance at the same time that Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel ceiling just a few doors away this room was originally a library part of the papal apartments that is the apartments with the pope lived in order to imagine what this room would have looked like at the beginning of the sixteenth century imagine away all these people and imagine instead the lower walls lined with books and also imagine quiet which is hard to do here and an environment of learning where you could look up at what Raphael painted here on the four walls which are the four branches of human knowledge philosophy having to do with things of this world but philosophy at this time also meant what we now call the sciences on the opposite wall theology having to do with issues relating to God and the divine and on the two other walls poetry and justice so these four areas of human knowledge are symbolized by allegorical figures that we see on the ceiling and it's so clear that a few doors away is Michelangelo because Raphael's clearly looking at Michelangelo's figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel especially the prophets and the sibyl's what a moment in the high Renaissance all commissioned thanks to you pope julius ii and think about what it means for theology to be presented equally with human knowledge it is this extraordinarily liberal moment in church history when humanists classical learning can be united with the teachings of the church in the center of the school of athens the fresco that represents philosophy we have the two great philosophers from antiquity in the center Plato and Aristotle surrounded by other great thinkers and philosophers in math which from antiquity virtually every known great figure but let's start with the two in the center we can tell Plato from Aristotle because plato is older plato was in fact Aristotle's teacher but also because he holds one of his own books the Timaeus and Aristotle holds his book the ethics and both of those books represent the contrasting philosophies of these two men Plato was known for being interested in the ethereal of the theoretical that which could not be seen and in fact we see him pointing upward this idea that the world of appearances is not the final truth that there is a realm that is based on mathematics on pure idea that is more true than the everyday world that we see whereas Aristotle his student focused his attention on the observable the actual the physical and you'll notice that his palm is down and he seems to be saying no no let's pay attention to what is here right to what we can see and observe in the world and in fact if you look at the colors that each of the figures where they refer to this division Plato wears red and purple the purple referring to the ether what we would call the air the red to fire neither of which have weight and Aristotle wears blue and brown that is the colors of Earth and water which have gravity which have weight so the philosophers on either side of Plato and Aristotle continue this division on the side of Plato we see philosophers concerned with issues of the ideal for example on the lower left we see Pythagoras the great ancient mathematician who discovered laws of harmony and music in mathematics this idea that there is a reality that transcends the reality that we see compare that to the lower right where we see Euclid the figure we associate with geometry and in fact it seems to be drawing a geometric diagram for some very eager students but he is interested in measure that is the idea of the practical Euclid is modeled actually on a friend of Raphael's Bramante the great architect asked by pope julius ii to provide a new model for new st. peter's and in fact appropriate to his reincarnation here as nuclear Vermont his design for st. Peter's was based on a perfect geometry of circles and squares and is really visible in the architecture that Raphael constructed for the School of Athens here we see an architecture that is very Bramante in but also very ancient Roman we have covered barrel vaults plasters this is a space that enables the figures that it contains and we can see representations of classical sculpture in the niches on the left that is on the Platonic side we see Apollo the god of the Sun the god of music the god of poetry things that would be appropriate to the Platonic and in turn on the right we see athena the god of war and wisdom who presumably is involved in a more practical affairs of men all of this seems to me to be a place that is the opposite of the medieval where knowledge was something that was passed down by authority and one had to accept it but here on the walls of the papal apartments we get this image of sharing knowledge the history of the accumulation of knowledge all with figures who move beautifully who in their bodies represent the gracefulness that is a reflection of their inner wisdom and knowledge well you'll notice that Raphael has not placed any names within the painting the only identifiers are perhaps the titles of the books that both Plato and Aristotle holds and so we're meant to understand who these figures are through their movement through their address now the artist has parted both groups to the left and the right so that the middle foreground is fairly empty he does this I think for a couple of reasons he wants the linear perspective at the bottom of the painting to balance the strong orthogonals at the top of the painting and he wants to make way for the advancement of Plato and Aristotle as they walk down the stairs but we also have two figures in the foreground in the we have Diogenes and most interestingly we have the ancient philosopher Heraclitus who seems to be writing and thinking quietly by himself most of the other figures in his painting are engaged with others but not this man he seems to be lost in his own thoughts well and he's writing on a block of marble and in fact his features are those of the great artist Michelangelo known for his rather lonely and brooding personality Raphael has painted him here in the same pose as the prophet Isaiah on the Sistine ceiling although Isaiah looks up and here Michelangelo's Heraclitus decidedly looks down and so it's so interesting that Raphael is paying homage to Michelangelo the great artist here personifying Heraclitus a philosopher who believed that all things were always in flux actually added later Raphael finished the fresco added some wet plaster and added in that figure we should also note that Raphael included himself here that's the young figure looking directly out at us in a black cap and standing among some of the most important astronomers of all time including Ptolemy who theorized about the movements of the plan ENSO Astra who's holding the celestial orb we're so far here from the medieval idea of the artist as a craftsman here the artist is considered an intellectual on par with some of the greatest thinkers in history who can express these important ideas so we have dozens of figures here without any sense of stiffness or repetition Raphael like Leonardo and the Last Supper divides the figures into groups each figure overlaps and moves easily between and amongst the others my favorite two figures are the ones just behind Euclid one leaning against the wall with his leg crossed over the other whose hurrying and writing some notes the other leaning over and watching there's a wonderful sense of intimacy there and I think it's a scene you could see walking along the hallway of any college or university for all the free movement of the figures the architecture itself is using linear perspective in a rigorous way you can the orthogonals either in the pavement or in the cornices as they recede back so the illusion of space here is incredible good the way that the decoration of the Greek meander seems as if it goes back in space what's interesting though is if this architecture is harking back to any ancient tradition it's harking back to the Roman tradition not to the Greeks who never used barrel vaults in this way nearby Bramante Raphael Michelangelo could see the baths of caracalla or the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine there was Roman architectural ruins all over the city that resembled what Raphael is painted here it's so extraordinary that we're celebrating here at the pantheon of great pagan thinkers none of these men were Christians let's take a quick look at the fresco that's office at the School of Athens known as the dispute ah and this fresco represents theology the study of the divine figures here divided between the heavenly and the earth close to the top we see God the Father in the dome of heaven below him Christ in his marvelous full body halo ork mandorla and surrounded by the Virgin Mary on his right and Saint John the Baptist on his left and just below a dove against another gold disc and this is the Holy Spirit so all three together are the Trinity on either side of the Dove are the four books of the Gospels Matthew Mark Luke and John that tell the story of the life of Christ and that wonderful bench of clouds sit prophets and saints and we can actually recognize for instance Moses holding the Ten Commandments and then another circle below it contains the host or the bread that is miraculously the body of Christ during the mass and so the bread functions as a link between heaven and earth we can see how separated heaven and earth are in this fresco and how important that link is figures along the bottom are Pope's and bishops and Cardinals and members of various religious orders the Fathers of the Church we can make out a portrait of Dante the great medieval poet we have a sense of the figures on the bottom of the fresco coming to divine knowledge through the miracle of the host and two figures on either end seem to be moving away from that divine knowledge but there's efforts being made to turn them around to bring them back so here in the sons of the lisinga Torah a room that functioned is the library for pope julius ii a celebration of all aspects of human knowledge you