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Title The School of Athens
Collection Royal Academy of Arts, London
Artist Cades, Giuseppe (Italian painter, 1750-1799)
After Raphael (Italian painter and draftsman, 1483-1520)
Date Earliest possibly about 1765
Date Latest 1799
Signed yes
Description A number of figures in classical dress debate in groups or sit alone absorbed in thought, within a classicizing architecture partially open to the sky. This is a reduced copy on canvas after Raphael's fresco ca. 1508-12 in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. The picture imagines the most famous philosophers of ancient times engaged in study and debate within an imposing Renaissance architecture inspired by Bramante's project of renewal for the basilica of St Peter's. Plato, at the centre of the composition, points upwards with one hand and holds one of his dialogues, the Timeus in the other, beside him Aristotle holds the Ethics.
Museum Number 03/815
Inscription front 'IOS CADES PINX'
Subject figure
Measurements 75.6 x 111 cm
Material oil on canvas

Giuseppe Cades (1750-1799) was an Italian painter and draughtsman who trained under Domenico Corvi at the Accademia di S Luca in Rome. Cades was an important history painter and decorator, whose paintings and drawings adopt styles from the Baroque to the Neo-classical. His subjects are primarily taken from Greek and Roman literature, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious history and Renaissance Italian literature. His first large canvases are painted in the classical tradition of late seventeenth-century Italian painting. From 1774 however, he was increasingly inspired by the circle of northern artists who gathered in Rome around Johann Heinrich Füseli and Johan Tobias Sergel. He broke with the Late Baroque formulae to create a Romantic style, influenced both by the Antique and by Mannerist and Renaissance painting. He also established himself as an important copyist, winning custom from British travellers on the Grand Tour who wanted to return home with copies after works by the Old Masters.

This is a reduced copy on canvas after Raphael's fresco of the School of Athens of about 1508-12 in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. Raphael (1483-1520) was an Italian painter, draughtsman and architect. Following his early works in Città di Castello, Perugia and Florence he was summoned by Pope Julius II to Rome in 1508 decorate the papal apartments in the Vatican. His first commission was to decorate the Stanza della Segnatura, a room that was almost certainly designed as the library of Pope Julius. On the walls he painted frescoes of the Disputa, Parnassus and the School of Athens and scenes of Pope Gregory IX and Justinian I, Emperor of Byzantium, delivering decrees were placed to either side of a window with the Three Cardinal Virtues above.

The School of Athens imagines the most famous philosophers including Plato and Aristotle at centre. Pythagoras is shown in the foreground explaining the diatesseron while Diogenes is laying on the stairs with a dish, a reminder of how he destroyed the single bowl he possessed upon seeing a peasant boy drink from the hollow of his hands. The pessimist philosopher, Heracleitus, a portrait of Michelangelo then working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, is leaning against a block of marble, writing on a sheet of paper. On the right we see Euclid, who is teaching geometry to his pupils, Zoroaster holding the heavenly sphere and Ptolemy holding the earthly sphere. The personage on the extreme right with the black beret is a self-portrait of Raphael.

Rights Owner Royal Academy of Arts, London
Author Jennifer Sliwka



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