|Name||Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (Raphael)|
|Birth||6 April, 1483|
|Death||6 April, 1520|
|Music||Josquin des Prez (c. 1450 to 1455 - 27-08-1521) - 'Qui Habitat' and 'Ave Maria'|
It was 1508 when Pope Julius II, to decorate his apartments, hired a team of artists in order to have them work on different parts of the suite simultaneously, confident that the pressure of competition would make them all do their best work, and as quickly as possible.
Among these painters there was a young man from Urbino, Raffaello Sanzio, recommended by the pope's trusted architect, Donato Bramante. Raffaello soon revealed an aesthetic sensibility really in tune with the pope's one, so that Julius II decided to fire the rest of the team in order to have the entire suite frescoed by the man who will soon become, together with Michelangelo, the highest representer of the Italian Renaissance.
Unluckly, both of them died before the work was finished (at the time of Raffaello's death, only two rooms were decorated out of three plus one bigger hall), but those Vatican Rooms still contain the most valuable pieces of art from this incredible artist.
The School of Athens, 1511–12, in the Stanza della Segnatura. (Click on the image to enlarge it)
The "Stanza della Segnatura" (translates to "Room of the Signatura") was the first to be decorated by Raffaello's frescoes, and the one containing his probably most important work, "The School of Athens". The theme of this room are spiritual wisdom and harmony; wisdom in particoular is really appropriate as this room was the council chamber for the Apostolic Signatura, where most of the important papal documents were signed and sealed.
As one may think, this fresco is devoted to Philosophy, and in particoular to the ancient greek philosphy, considerated very important by the Vatican itself (the Library held thousands of manuscripts with ancient Greek and Latin texts).
Among the statues along the walls, only two can be easly identified: Apollo's one on the left and Minerva's one on the right.
The philosophers are arranged at various levels on a four-step staircase. A the top center, Plato and his onetime student Aristotle are carrying books that identify not only who they are, but also what aspect of their many writings bears most directly on the fresco's larger point.
Plato's Timaeus is the first place in ancient literature where God is described as one being with three natures: a foreshadowing of the Trinity. The finger pointing upward clearly states that the viewer has to look above in order to find the 3-in-1 divinity to which the fresco is dedicated.
Aristotle's Ethics, instead, with the philosopher's finger pointing toward the viewer, regards the repercussions of Plato's intuitions in right human behaviours: "Love God and love your neighbour" will be the result of Christ's semplification of Aristotle's complex work.
In the center of the stairs, Diogenes, the original cynic, ignores the eager conversations. Heraclitus, just under him, rests his chin in his hand and glowers at human folly.
The importance of music (as a way to get nearer to God) is celebrated on the bottom-left part of the fresco, with the presence of Pythagoras, the great musical and geometrical theorist.
A few words about the music
Josquin des Prez was a great Franco-Flemish Renaissance composer, the most acclaimed of his time and the first great master of the tecnique of polyphony (the sovrapposition of multiple different-pitched sounds).
He was also a very prolific author, as we can admire an incredibly large number of Masses, Motets and Chansons that he left us.
On the video you can let your ears enjoy two lovely and very polyphonic compositions for choir: Qui Habitat and Ave Maria.