The Pope, the Painter, and the Dynamics of Social Standing in the Stanza della Segnatura

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Raphael's School of Athens received much attention in modern scholarship, yet little attention was given to the anonymous figures of classical beauty that are scattered, not only in this particular painting, but also in the Disputà , the painting on the opposite wall of the stanza. In this article, the focus of attention will be on three such figures in the School of Athens, which are situated on the left side of the painting. The three, a baby, a boy, and a young man, differ from all the other anonymous figures in this part of the painting in that they have their heads turned to the right and are gazing directly at the viewer. They will be considered as a group that may have had two purposes, both of which relate to political narratives. The first purpose was to accentuate the image and meaning of the pope-Julius II; the second, to draw attention to the painter's self-portrait and his social agenda. Their placement together is based on a peculiar composition that has a precedent in Florentine mural painting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-287
Number of pages19
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2012


  • Cappella Sassetti
  • Ghirlandaio
  • Julius II
  • Raphael
  • School of Athens
  • Stanza della Segnatura
  • self-portrait

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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