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Third Raphael Room - “Stanza della Segnatura” (“Room of the Segnatura"), Rome

Overview

'Stanza della Segnatura' ('Room of the Segnatura')
'Stanza della Segnatura' ('Room of the Segnatura')

Photo by 0ro1 on Wikimedia Commons

'Stanza della Segnatura' ('Room of the Segnatura')
'Stanza della Segnatura' ('Room of the Segnatura')

Photo by 0ro1 on Wikimedia Commons

The third room is "Stanza della Segnatura" ("Room of the Segnatura"), and was the first room completed between 1509 and 1511, containing Raphael's most famous frescos. The room was initially used as Pope Julius II's library and private office, and after 1513, during Pope Leo III's pontification, it was used as a small study and music room. Around the mid 16th century it was used for the meetings of the supreme papal tribunal, the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church after the Pope, called "Segnatura Gratiae et Iustitiae" ("Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura" or simply "Apostolic Signatura"), which was investigating and preparing the signing - hence the name signatura - of petitions and other cases presented to the Holy See. This is where the room's name came from. The room is reflecting the Renaissance ideal of culture with its four divisions: Theology, Philosophy, Law and Poetry, with each of the frescoes in the room reflecting one of the four divisions, with each theme identified by a separate tondo (round painting) above it, containing a female figure seated in the clouds, with putti bearing the phrases: "Knowledge of Things Divine", "Seek Knowledge of Causes", "To Each What Is Due" and "Divine Inspiration" in Latin.

Ceiling

Ceiling
Ceiling

The ceiling is divided into four sections, dedicated to the same topics as the four frescoes on the walls, i.e. to the faculties of the spirit: Philosophy, Theology, Poetry and Justice, here represented with female allegories.

The School of Athens

The School of Athens

Plato holding his book, "Timaeus"; portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

Aristotle holding his book, "Nichomachean Ethics"

Apeles; Raphael's auto portrait, with black hat

Heraclitus, a portrait of Michelangelo

Pythagoras, famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, reading from a book and surrounded by his students

Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher

Socrates, classical Greek philosopher

Euclid, the "father of geometry", with a compass; it is believed to be a portrait of Bramante, famous Italian architect and Raphael's friend

Diogenes, famous Greek philosopher

Ptolemy, Greek mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer, holding a globe of the Earth in his hand

Zoroaster (Zarathustra), ancient Iranian prophet, religious reformer and spiritual leader, holding the celestial globe

Plato holding his book, "Timaeus"; portrait of Leonardo da Vinci

Aristotle holding his book, "Nichomachean Ethics"

Apeles; Raphael's auto portrait, with black hat

Heraclitus, a portrait of Michelangelo

Pythagoras, famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, reading from a book and surrounded by his students

Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher

Socrates, classical Greek philosopher

Euclid, the "father of geometry", with a compass; it is believed to be a portrait of Bramante, famous Italian architect and Raphael's friend

Diogenes, famous Greek philosopher

Ptolemy, Greek mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer, holding a globe of the Earth in his hand

Zoroaster (Zarathustra), ancient Iranian prophet, religious reformer and spiritual leader, holding the celestial globe

The School of Athens

Photo by Paul 012 on Wikimedia Commons

"The School of Athens" on the East wall, the third fresco executed from this room, painted between 1509 and 1511. The fresco's subject is Philosophy, and the female figure with the putti above it bears the Latin phrase "Causarum Cognitio", meaning "Seek Knowledge of Causes". It includes all the major ancient Greek philosophers, with Plato and Aristotle in the center, holding their books, "Timaeus" and "Nichomachean Ethics". The elderly Plato, with the face of Leonardo da Vinci, points towards the heaven, maybe a reference to his sophisticated treatment of space, time, and change, while Aristotle points towards the Earth, perhaps representing his four-elements theory: Earth, Water, Air, Fire. Raphael included certain elements to make the identification possible, such as Plato and Aristotle holding their books, Socrates, recognizable from Classical busts, Euclid, the father of geometry, represented with a compass and believed to be Bramante, astronomer Ptolemy holding a globe of the Earth in his hand, and Zoroaster holding the celestial globe. Also represented in the painting are mathematician Pythagoras, reading from a book and surrounded by his students, Epicurus, to the left, reading a book, wearing a laurel wreath, Diogenes, lying on the stairs, and Heraclitus, a portrait of Michelangelo, is leaning against a block of marble, writing on a sheet of paper. It is said that, working at the same time with Michelangelo who was painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, his friend, Bramante, who recommended him for the job, took Raphael to see Michelangelo's work, and Raphael was so impressed that he included Michelangelo in his painting at the last minute. Also present in the picture, according to Vasari, are portraits of the young Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, leaning over Euclid (Bramante) with his hands raised, and Raphael himself, as the figure to the right, behind Ptolemy, with a black hat, both in the lower right corner of the fresco. The painting is notable for its accurate perspective projection, Raphael setting it in a vast architectural illusion of perspective. It is considered a virtuoso work of composition, drawing and perspective, being considered one of the most representative pieces of the High Renaissance, the short period of the exceptional artistic creation, the zenith of western art, starting just before 1500, with da Vinci's "The Last Supper" and Michelangelo's "Pietà" from Saint Peter's Basilica, and ending in 1520, with Raphael's death. Furthermore, the years between 1508 and 1512, when both Raphael's "School of Athens" and Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling were created, are considered the absolute culmination of the Renaissance.

Cardinal and Theological Virtues

Cardinal and Theological Virtues
Cardinal and Theological Virtues

"Cardinal and Theological Virtues" on the South wall, executed in 1511. It represents Law, and the female figure with the putti above it bears the Latin phrase "Ius suum unicuique tribuit", meaning " To Each What Is Due ". It contains three scenes. The one above, in the lunette, represents the Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude, Prudence and Temperance, represented by three women, with the fourth one and considered by Plato the most important, the Justice, represented in the tondo above, with a scale and a sword. The Fortitude (courage) is represented as the woman to the left, in an armor and petting a lion, the one in the middle is Prudence, represented with an effigy of a winged Gorgon to protect against deceit and fraud, and having an older wise man face on the back of her head representing sound judgment based on experience. The third one, on the right, is Temperance, holding the bridle of restraint. Also represented here are the Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity, personified by three of the five putti in the fresco. The putti seen harvesting acorns from the oak branch represents Charity, the one holding the torch depicts Hope, and the one to the right, with his hand raised towards heaven, representing Faith. Both frescos below represent scenes related to law. The scene to the left of the window, representing the civil law, was designed by Raphael but executed by his assistant Lorenzo Lotto It depicts Emperor Justinian receiving the civil code known as the Pandects of the Corpus Juris Civilis from Tribonian. The fresco to the right of the window represents the canon (ecclesiastical) law, and depicts Pope Gregory IX, portrayed by Pope Julius II, who commissioned the fresco, receiving the code of canon law known as the Decretals from Raymond of Penyafort. The two cardinals by him are Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (the future Pope Leo X, pontiff from 1513 to 1521) and Alessandro Farnese (the future Pope Paul III, pontiff from 1534 to 1549).

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament

Disputation of the Holy Sacrament
Disputation of the Holy Sacrament

"Disputation of the Holy Sacrament" on the West wall, the first fresco executed, between 1509 and 1510. It represents Theology, and the female figure with the putti above it bears the Latin phrase "Divinarum rerum notitia", meaning "Knowledge of Things Divine". It shows an adoration of the sacrament, a church spanning in both the heaven and on earth. In the heavens, in the center of the group is the Holy Trinity, with God, Christ between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist, and the Holy Spirit in the middle, and to the right and left prophets of the Old Testament, apostles and martyrs. From left to right they are: St Peter (holding keys), Adam, St John the Evangelist, David, St Laurence, Judas Maccabees, St Stephen, Moses (with horns of light and holding tablets of the Ten Commandments), St James the elder, Abraham, St Paul (holding a book and sword). On Earth, the four seated personages are the four Fathers of the Latin Church: St Gregory the Great (a portrait of Julius II), St Jerome to the left, and St Ambrose and St Augustine to the right of the altar, with their names inscribed in their halos. Also included in the fresco is Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Julius II's uncle, which is the pontiff furthest to the right, Dante Alighieri behind him and of Fra Angelico in the monk on the extreme left. The bald man reading a book leaning over a railing, on the left of the fresco, is thought to be Raphael's friend, the architect Bramante.

The Parnassus

"The Parnassus" on the North wall, the second fresco executed from this room, between 1509 and 1511. It represents Poetry and Literature, and the female figure with the putti above it bears the Latin phrase "numine afflatur", meaning "Divine Inspiration". It depicts the Greek Mount Parnassus, the home of Apollo and the Muses, goddesses of poetry, music and arts. Apollo is seated in the center, playing a lyre, surrounded by the nine Muses, nine ancient poets and nine modern poets. Homer is portrayed as Laocoön from the sculpture "Laocoön and His Sons", excavated shortly before, in 1507, Virgil and Dante behind him, and poetess Sapphos, the only woman poet included, seated at the bottom left, with her name written on the scroll she holds, probably to be distinguished from the Muses.