And here, also, a wonderful little piece of art history. Many people are familiar with Raphael's The School of Athens
, a dynamic medley of the figures at the forefront of Western intellectual life, particularly centering on Plato and Aristotle. What is not as well known, is that that painting is only part of a larger, more interactive artistic unit. (I can't remember whether I learned that in the room itself, the Stanza della Segnatura, where the paintings are, or if I learned it in a book. At any rate, the selective promotion of just The School of Athens
part of the work might make for an interesting study in itself.) The much-noted movement of that painting isn't a movement going nowhere--as would be strangely symbolic of the all-too-Western haters of the West we see today--but in fact moves into the facing painting The Disputation on the Sacrament
. This article, however, adds a number of details I'd never noticed regarding both paintings, which make their interaction--and the participation of the viewer standing in the midst of them--all the more striking. The Disputation
was highlighted at the recent Synod on the Eucharist in Rome, and the artist welcomed to the table, as is remarked, as an extra participant.
The "Extra" Synod Father: RaphaelThe reproduction of his "Disputation on the Sacrament " has been placed in the hall of the synod on the Eucharist. Timothy Verdon, whom Benedict XVI has called to Rome as an expert consultant, explains why
by Sandro Magister
ROMA, October 17 2005 – In the hall of the Vatican where the synod on the Eucharist is being held from October 2-23, above the presider's table is a large screen. It displays a famous fresco by Raphael, which illustrates for the synod fathers the theme of their meeting: the "Disputation on the Sacrament." At the center of the depiction, on an altar surrounded by other fathers who are reasoning and discussing – while they adore – is the consecrated host exposed in a magnificent monstrance.
The original fresco is nearby, in the wing of the Apostolic Palace visited daily by thousands of visitors from all nations and faiths, a few steps away from the Sistine Chapel. Raphael painted it in 1509. Pope Julius II commissioned him to paint it in what was the library of his apartment for receiving visitors, which was later named the Stanza della Segnatura.
The "Disputation," which is 7 m wide, completely filling the wall it occupies, and is set off by a vaulted arch, was the first fresco that the 27-year-old artist from Urbino painted at the Vatican. And it is also his most richly theological work. On another wall of that same papal library, facing the "Disputation," Raphael painted another famous fresco, "The School of Athens," immediately after the first.
Both of these frescoes, and the room as a whole, provide an important means of understanding the Catholic faith as it was lived by the humanists of the papal court, at the dawn of the modern era.
The insight they provide is still powerfully instructive, as Timothy Verdon demonstrates in the text reproduced below. Verdon is one of the leading specialists in sacred art worldwide. Born in New Jersey in 1946, he is now a priest living in Florence. Educated as an art historian at Yale University, he has lived in Italy for thirty years, where he directs the office of the Florence archdiocese for catechesis through art. He is also a consultant for the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, a fellow of the Center for Renaissance Studies at Harvard University, and a professor at Stanford University and at the Theological Faculty of Central Italy.
Benedict XVI invited him to the synod on the Eucharist as an expert.( Collapse )