Raphael's Stanza Della Segnatura: Meaning and Invention

By Pfeiffer, Heinrich | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Raphael's Stanza Della Segnatura: Meaning and Invention


Pfeiffer, Heinrich, The Catholic Historical Review


Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura: Meaning and Invention. By Christiane L. Joost-Gaugier. (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 2002. Pp. xiv, 267, 12 color plates, 31 figs. $75.00.)

Anyone who writes a book on the meaning of the most famous works of Renaissance art and especially of the Roman works which were executed for a pope should know a lot of medieval and Renaissance theology and philosophy in order to appreciate and to explain the full content of the frescoes done by Raphael or by Michelangelo.The new book on the Stanza delta Segnatura presents as its fundamental thesis a repetition of that of the article of Monsignor Kiinzle and affirms that the principal man who gave advice to Raphael was the papal librarian Fedro Inghirami.

The book is divided into twelve chapters. The first reaffirms the meaning and function of the Stanza as the library of Julius II. The second deals with the problem of identifying the designer of the program. The third presents the person of the papal librarian. The fourth gives a good explanation of the composition of the ceiling decoration and of the meanings of the four inscriptions on the tablets of the four personifications of the disciplines of poetry, law, philosophy, and theology. The fifth chapter describes the relation of the paintings with the geographic situation of the Stanza on the Vatican Hill and with the four directions on the terrestrial globe.The next four chapters are dedicated to the great wall paintings, the "Disputa," the "School of Athens," the "Parnassus," and "Jurisprudence."The last chapter describes for the first time the pattern of the pavement. In the conclusion the author presents her thesis of the exclusive collaboration between the painter Raphael and the poet Inghirami.

Now we have to ask ourselves,"Is this construction not a little bit simple?" There was surely not only one adviser for Raphael. He had always a considerable number of intellectual friends. On the other side, if we find a lot of correspondences in the works of Giles of Viterbo and of the Venetian Cristoforo Marcello, especially for the "School of Athens," and in the works of Petrus Galatinus for the colors of the clothes of the three virtues on the "Jurisprudence" wall, and the explanation for the golden rays in the upper part of the "Disputa" in the Vexillum fidei of Georgius Benignus, the composition of the program is not to be attributed to one of these outstanding personalities, even less to Tommaso Inghirami, but to a subordinated, still anonymous person, who brought together his knowledge using the works and ideas of the above-mentioned persons. …

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