His Most Famous Painting (The School of Athens) – Raphael

Born in Urbino and trained under Pietro Perugino in Perugia, 'Italian Renaissance' painter and the architect of the Italian High Renaissance Raffaello Sanzi or Santi, better known as Raphael, is recognized at par with Leonardo and Michelangelo in the terms of artistic talent. Of the many memorable pieces produced, Raphael's most famous 'High Renaissance' painting is "The School of Athens or Scuola di Atene (Italian)" (1510-11), a huge composition of various figures adorned on the Vatican walls in Rome.

In 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned frescoes in four rooms, Stanze di Raffaello, at the Apostolic Palace, Vatican. Architect Donato Bramante recommended Raphael's name to the Pope for this project. Each room signified a theme that was represented with a painting, such as Theology by Disputa, Poetry by Parnassus, Law by Jurisprudence, and Philosophy by The School of Athens, which is also the most famous among the other frescoes. Raphael's work reflected clearly outlined figures fostered by the outstanding use of light and shadow to give depth and realistic edge.

"The School of Athens" ensnares the renowned philosophers of the Greek world, with Plato and Aristotle at its center. They are seen holding in their left hand the copies of Timaeus & Nicomachean Ethics respectively, with a group of other philosophers & scientists on each side of Plato and Aristotle. The philosophers at Plato's side seem to conjecture the obscurity of the globe, while those at the Aristotle's end, appear vexed for nature and humanity. Some other well-known philosophers and scientists Sanzi captured are Pythagoras, Heraklettes, and Euclid, the Greek mathematician shown with a compass. Raphael has placed himself at one far end of the composition as a commoner peering from a group of scholars. The overall impact of "The School of Athens" frescoes is that of grandiose charm, serenity, & symmetry, illustrating the historical continuity of Platonic thought.

Raphael began working on "The School of Athens" in 1509 and accomplished it by November 1511. The Pope too took an instant liking to Raphael and so did the others. Being a total charmer, for women especially, Raphael earned himself the title of 'Prince of Painters.' Giorgio Vasari once said about Raphael, "Raphael was so gentle and so charitable that even animals loved him, not to speak of men."

Appreciating "The School of Athens," Celio Calcagnini once said, "It took many ancient heroes and a long age to build Rome, and many enemies and centuries to destroy it." Now Raphael has seen and discovered Rome in Rome; it takes a great man to seek, but discovery comes of God himself. "