The School of Athens by Raphael is a complex painting with a fascinating composition. The subjects, building, composition and his use of color make it a compelling piece. This painting is extremely decorative and complex. With various tools, Raphael was able to emphasize different aspects and pull the viewer into the work. Because of the colors used in the painting, and the setting, this painting seems to be of religious or educated figures.
This painting has many subjects, most of which appear to be male. Knowing that most renaissance paintings have both genders, one would conclude that there are a few females. All of the subjects are wearing colorful, flowing robes. The fact that they have colorful clothing on symbolizes a high rank. This rank is either of the church or of land. The highly crafted building the subjects are in leads the viewer to think that the rank is from the church or education. In the middle, the subjects are surrounding two men. Everyone seems to be listening to the men.
The men in the bottom left are reading or writing, what could be the primary men’s words. The ones in the bottom right are surrounding a board on the floor and could be discussing the words of the men. With all of the conversing going on, and the layout of the people, one would assume that this is a lecture setting. This story is going on in a large, ornate, arched-ceiling building.
This building is painted from top to bottom. The main arch in the front has a very geometric pattern on it but the column connecting it to the ground is flowery. There is gold on the ceiling, on the decorative pieces between each painting. The top-left corner has a large rock painted on a background of gold. There is a person standing behind it but the edge of the painting cuts it off at the waist. Under the large rock painting, there is a smaller gold tree on a blue background. These two colors are the epitome or wealth because they are the most costly to buy.
In the top right corner, again cut off by the border of the painting, there is a group or what appear to be women. They are focused around some type of animal in the middle. Below this is the same tree as the opposite side. The filling between the two large paintings and the smaller trees is all triangular. It has an ornate pattern in blue and gold, just like the trees. In the bottom left-hand corner, there is a framed square, which looks like it is a mirror. The way there is wood in it but no other bare wood anywhere in the picture makes it seem to be a reflection.
Behind the large arch in the front, there is a hallway type of structure. It has a statue on each side with smaller carved scenes under them. The hallway, which opens up to a ceiling-less patio has statues, similar to the ones on the wall. The archways have geometric carved patterns covering the ceilings. Unlike the foreground arch, the background ones are white stone; there is no paint or gold on them. As the arches become smaller and the sky becomes larger, the pure blue sky with fluffy white clouds begins to show. This painting is very realistic, because of the detail of ornamental pieces and because of the accuracy of the structure.
The perspective is precise; larger things are in the foreground and smaller things are in the background. Unlike earlier paintings, the building looks like you could walk through it. The scale of the subjects is also very accurate. Some earlier works had the most important characters larger and in the middle. The values, which differ in the arches, show depth. The arches are darker on the underside and on the right walls, to show a direction of light from the right. The people on the sides are not exact copies but the fact that they are on both sides makes the painting approximately symmetrical. The evenness of the arches also emphasizes the symmetrical characteristic. The composition of the image is made interesting by the complexity of the people. The empty building without the individuals in it would be an architectural study.
The colors in this painting pull the viewer in. The use of gold in modesty, compared to many other paintings, makes the whole painting brighten. The colors on the robes are impressive. The subjects closer to the two in the middle have more primary and secondary colored gowns while the perimeter has primarily tertiary colored clothing. This may have to do with class or emphasis. As concluded earlier, the middle subjects are significant so to make them stand out, the robes are more vibrant. The archway in the front is much more decorative and frames the subjects underneath. With the arches in the back being less showy, the foreground with the people stands out more.
In conclusion, this painting has many facets and details, which could go unnoticed. Raphael stressed certain parts by using color and framing. The context leads one to believe that the subjects are knowledgeable. With the color, composition and subjects combined, this painting is a significant piece. The School of Athens is an elaborate painting with a multifaceted story.