Raphael was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1510 to decorate with frescos the walls of his private apartment, now known as the Stanze di Raffaello in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. For Raphael, this must have been a daunting task as he had never worked on a project of such magnitude and he had little experiencein fresco.
The second of his frescos entitled The School of Athens was on the wall of a room, known as the Stanza della Senatura and is one of the most famous paintings by the Italian Renaissance artist. This room was intended by the Pope to be filled with portraits of great intellectuals of the ancient world. The fresco is a who’s who of the famous thinkers of the past and there have been many arguments when it comes to identifying the characters of the fresco.
According to Michael Lahanas in his book The School of Athens, “Who is Who?” Puzzle they are usually identified as follows:
1: Zeno of Citium 2: Epicurus 3: Federico II of Mantua 4: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius or Anaximander or Empedocles 5: Averroes 6: Pythagoras 7: Alcibiades or Alexander the Great? 8: Antisthenes or Xenophon 9: Hypatia (Francesco Maria della Rovere) 10: Aeschines or Xenophon 11: Parmenides 12: Socrates 13: Heraclitus (Michelangelo) 14: Plato (Leonardo da Vinci) 15: Aristotle 16: Diogenes 17: Plotinus or Michelangelo 18: Euclid or Archimedes with students (Bramante) 19: Zoroaster 20: Ptolemy R: Apelles (Raphael) 21: Protogenes (Il Sodoma, Perugino, or Timoteo Viti)