All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1510

["La scuola di Atene" by Raphael - File:Sanzio 01.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_scuola_di_Atene.jpg#/media/File:La_scuola_di_Atene.jpg]


Over this text is a fresco. Fresco is painting in wet plaster. Not freehand, that would admit too many variables even for Raphael, who did this one between 1509 and 1511. One starts with sketches and incorporates their primary lines into a cartoon. Cartoon is a drawing on stout paper, same size as the projected fresco, which one goes at with a pounce wheel --bigger than tailors use on patterns but same principle-- then the image is transferred to the wall by puffing charcoal through the holes. After that, one tries to get the painting done before the wall dries. Tricky work.

Around 1510, Raphael produced this fresco entitled "School Of Athens". It was intended to decorate the Stanza della Segnatura, or Popehouse, for Julius II and Leo X, whose careers coincided so closely it's pardonable to assume they were roomies. The fresco is in a chamber dedicated to human intellect. That means there were intellectual things in there. Leo kept a pet named Hanno. I don't know if Hanno was an indoor elephant or an outdoor one --or if it was housetrained (lack of housetraining is why I became a gardener), but suspect it was the reason Julius moved out.

The fresco was Raphael's idea of what a college should look like: philosophers of all ages lounging around on the steps of fantastic architecture, learning and teaching, fiddling with stuff like kittens do. He's got everybody on those stairs from Socrates to Sartre --even Zoroaster and himself! When I first saw a slide of this thing in college, I looked down at my hard desk, my unlaundered jeans, sensible shoes and despaired. How much easier it would be each morning to simply roll out of bed in one's sheet and wear that all day.

Togas were a pre-Christian-missionary invention. You didn't have to make outfits to clothe the naked. You just tore off a bit of your sheet and let them spin into it if they wanted. I remember college and know many of the naked didn't want to be clothed. Students used to make friends among the naked and would not dream of insulting them with a whole industry designed to cover them up. But the composition has other points of interest. It includes Epicurius, Pythagorus, Xenophon, Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato and Euclid. The central, reclining figure is Diogenes --but in the cartoon, which now reclines among the treasures of Milan, Diogenes is a talking duck in a sailor suit.

Point is, these boys all had two things in common. They all devoted their lives to a calm inquiry into existence. They valued existence especially because they believed in a universe that is geometrically closed. That means it only has a certain amount of energy in it, subject to laws of conservation. Because the universe is a closed system --that is, there's nothing until it gets there-- all energy can be traced back to its beginning. The energy I use to write this, and the energy you use to read it, connects us to the beginning and ends of time. In college we sometimes got off the stairs to protest war, which we considered poor use of the universe's finite energy.

Other thing the philosophers had in common was room in the imagination of Raphael, who was a good use of the universe's energy.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you, Austan. I love your posts too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I start with the pithiest essence (in my view) of what you say here: "They all devoted their lives to a calm inquiry into existence. They valued existence especially because they believed in a universe that is geometrically closed. That means it only has a certain amount of energy in it, subject to laws of conservation. Because the universe is a closed system--that is, there's nothing until it gets there--all energy can be traced back to its beginning. The energy I use to write this, and the energy you use to read it, connects us to the beginning and ends of time. In college we sometimes got off the stairs to protest war, which we considered poor use of the universe's finite energy....Other thing the philosophers had in common was room in the imagination of Raphael, who was a good use of the universe's energy."

    Aside from some non-standard usages ("bigger than tailors use",""Raphael's idea of what a college should look like", "Other thing the philosophers had in common", I love this as a clarion call for us all, as much as ever, in the essence of what life is all about! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My privilege.
    You're Italian.
    Works pretty good.

    ReplyDelete

I value your comments. Say hello. Reach out a bit. I do.