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The School of Athens

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 26 March 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The School of Athens – the fresco painted by the Italian Renaissance painter, Raphael, for Pope Julius II’s private library in the Vatican. The fresco depicts some of the most famous philosophers of ancient times, including Aristotle and Plato, engaged in discussion amidst the splendour of a classical Renaissance chamber. It is considered to be one of the greatest images in Western art not only because of Raphael’s skill as a painter, but also his ability to have created an enduring image that continues to inspire philosophical debate today.

Raphael captured something essential about the philosophies of these two men, but he also revealed much about his own time. That such a pagan pair could be found beside a Pope in private tells of the complexity of intellectual life at the time when classical learning was reborn in what we now call the Renaissance.

With Angie Hobbs, Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Valery Rees, Renaissance scholar and senior member of the Language Department at the School of Economic Science; Jill Kraye, Professor of the History of Renaissance Philosophy and Librarian at the Warburg Institute at the University of London

  • Further Reading

    Renaissance Philosophy:

    Charles B. Schmitt, Aristotle and the Renaissance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983)

    James Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, 2 vols (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990)

    Raphael’s ‘School of Athens':

    Raphael’s “School of Athens”, ed. Marcia Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)

    Ingrid Rowland, ‘The Vatican Stanze’, in Cambridge Companion to Raphael, ed. Marcia Hall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 95–119

    E. H. Gombrich, ‘Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura and the Nature of Its Symbolism’, in his Symbolic Images: Studies in the Art of the Renaissance (London: Phaidon, 1972), pp. 85–101

    Giorgio Vasari, ‘Life of Raphael’, in his Lives of the Artists: A Selection, transl. George Bull (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965 and later reprints), pp. 284–324

    Plato & Aristotle:

    Plato, Timaeus (translation with introduction) (Penguin Classics)

    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (translation with introduction) (Penguin Classics)

    The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, ed. R. Kraut (Oxford: Blackwell)

  • .

    For short and accessible introductions to the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, the Oxford Pastmasters Series is a good place to start (Plato by R.M. Hare and Aristotle by Jonathan Barnes)

    For more scholarly articles and extensive and helpful bibliographies, the Cambridge Companions Series by Cambridge University Press is excellent:

    The Cambridge Companion to Greek and Roman Philosophy (ed. David Sedley)

    The Cambridge Companion to Plato (ed. R. Kraut)

    The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle (ed. J. Barnes)

    The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism (ed. J.Kraye)

    The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Philosophy (ed. James Hankins)

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