Friday, March 6, 2015


Stanza della Segnatura

Painted in the years 1509/11 by Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael) (1483/1520). 8.20 x 6.40 m (27 x 21 feet)

The name was added not before mid-1500 when it hosted the court of the ecclesiastical tribunal of the Signatura Gratiae chaired by the pope
At the time of Raphael it was perhaps the private library of Julius II and with Leo X it became a studio and a music room

The iconographic program was certainly established by a theologian and represents the three highest categories of the human spirit: the True (supernatural and rational), the Good and the Beautiful


Raphael respected the earlier work of Giovanni Antonio Bazzi aka Sodoma (1477/1549) author of the hexagon in the center and of eight small scenes. The master from Urbino added eight more scenes with female personifications, mythological and biblical stories, all on a background in imitation of gold mosaic:

“Theology” next to “Original Sin”, an event necessary for the advent of Christ and the redemption of man
“Justice” near the “Judgment of Solomon” with Solomon perhaps with the likeness of Julius II
“Philosophy” with dress in four colors: blue for air, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth, near the “First movement or Astronomy”


Caryatids and monochrome painted reliefs by Pietro Bonaccorsi aka Perin del Vaga (1501/47)

“The work, not that important in itself, was skillfully executed nevertheless. Among the usual female figures in chiaroscuro some small stories in bronze color were inserted, ingeniously conceived and painted by Perino with his famous illusionistic talent” (Hermann Voss)


Inlaid marble finished before Raphael began to paint


All absolute masterpieces by Raphael:
“Disputation of the Holy Sacrament” (Theology or Supernatural True)

More than a dispute it is an explanation or exaltation of the Holy Sacrament with in the middle Trinity, Our Lady, St. John the Baptist and the four Books of Gospels opened by angels

At the sides (from the left) St. Peter, Adam, St. John the Evangelist, King David, St. Stephen, Jeremiah, (on the right side starting from left) Judas Maccabaeus, St. Lawrence, Moses, a not identified Evangelist, St. Bartholomew (or maybe Abraham) and St. Paul

Below from left maybe Bramante leaning against the balustrade, the four fathers of the Church i.e. Sts. Gregory the Great, Jerome, Ambrose and Augustine, St. Bonaventure between the two popes Julius II (as Pope Innocent III of the Counts of Segni 1198/1216) and Sixtus IV, Dante Alighieri behind what appears to be a pillar in the construction of the new Basilica of St. Peter

Below there is a graffito by a Landsknecht during the Sack of Rome in 1527: Martinus Luterus

“Gregory IX of the Counts of Segni (1227/41) receives the Decretals” from St. Raymond PeƱafort (papal decrees on the basis of canon law) with Gregory IX depicted as Julius II and “Triboniano delivers the Pandects, a compendium of Roman civil law, to Justinian (527/565)” (LAW or Good)
On top “Virtues: Strength, Prudence and Temperance with five winged putti” three of which may represent the three theological virtues Faith, Hope and Charity

“School of Athens” (PHILOSOPHY or Rational True) in the niches on the left Apollo, on the right Minerva

From the left:

Maybe Epicurus with wreath and blue dress with the appearance of Federico Gonzaga
A young man with a white robe standing, maybe Francesco Maria Della Rovere nephew of Julius II and future Duke of Urbino
Pythagoras kneeling
Maybe Parmenides with his foot on a block of stone
Heraclitus writing with a purple tunic, maybe with the appearance of Michelangelo
Above Socrates standing and explaining to a group of people including perhaps Alexander the Great

In the center:

On the left Plato holding the Timaeus, perhaps in the guise of Leonardo Da Vinci
On the right Aristotle holding the Ethics
Below Diogenes the Cynic lying under the stairs

In the bottom right:

Group around Euclid maybe in the guise of Bramante
Standing behind there is Ptolemy, in front of Zoroaster, both holding globes, near Raphael with a black hat and maybe Perugino (or Sodoma?)

The “School of Athens” would appear in close relationship with the opposite “Dispute”: Raphael and the theological advisers to Pope Julius II placed the learned pagans who lived before the birth of Christ in a single imaginary building whose apse with the altar and the Epiphany of the Holy Sacrament is still under construction, as the planned new Basilica of St. Peter

So perhaps it alludes to the centrality of the Holy Sacrament that welcomes, however, the knowledge of the past in his building still under construction

The wise men cannot physically see the Holy Sacrament and are separately engaged in discussions in small groups, but nevertheless represent the past welcomed anyway into the Church with us standing in the middle of the room, flanked by the concepts of Beautiful and Good represented at the sides of this imaginary church
The future is all in the Holy Sacrament to which all the protagonists in the room, spectators included, tend

Maybe the consultants of Raphael have unwittingly introduced here a proto-Baroque concept of involvement of the viewer into a structure that unites architecture and painting, with the all humanistic novelty of accepting depictions of pagan theological representative speculation
It was not until the twentieth century that it would be possible to see pagans represented in painted religious scenes 

“Parnassus” (POETRY or Beautiful) mountain of southern Greece sacred to Apollo and the nine muses, among whom it can be distinguished with certainty only Thalia with her mask of comedy and Melpomene with her mask of tragic theater

Below on the left Sappho, above on the left Homer, between Dante Alighieri and Virgil, on the right Michelangelo and, sitting down, maybe Horace

“What is impressive about him is the rapid evolution whereby he begins with an archaic, fifteenth century style, switches to a Perugino kind of style, becomes Florentine in a certain way and then he begins the great classical moment, especially in the Stanza of the Signatura, which will be the benchmark of European classicism until the beginning of our century” (Federico Zeri)

“Raphael gives to every scene and to the whole a perfect eurhythmy and unity, visible sign of the humanistic agreement of the four faculties in the harmonious universe of knowledge, and their complementarity in achieving the Highest Good. His greatness lies in his ability to keep alive, visible and immediately expressed in the form of art the conceptual content of images, with a capacity that involves organizing every element of representation in a perfect match of form and content” (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)

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