While Michelangelo was beavering away in the Sistine Chapel, fewer than 200 yards away, a somewhat younger artist was equally busy decorating the pope's private apartments.
The artist's name was Raffaello Sanzio (1483-1520), better known in the English-speaking world as Raphael, and Pope Julius II (r. 1503-1513) had commissioned him, as part of a team of artists, to paint his library, the room that is now known as the Stanza della Segnatura. However, it didn't take the pope long to recognise Raphael's genius and he dismissed the rest of the team, leaving him to paint the library on his own.
On one of the walls he painted an image which, in the eyes of many, sums up the High Renaissance, in terms of its clarity of design and sense of classical harmony. The fresco, which came to be known as The School of Athens (1510--11), depicts the world of philosophy, as personified by many of its leading practitioners. In the centre of the painting, framed by an arch, stand Plato and Aristotle.
Some of the philosophers are thought to be portraits of Raphael’s contemporaries. Plato may be a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, while Euclid (in the foreground, on the right, leaning over a tablet and holding a compass) may depict the architect Donato Bramante, who, like Raphael, also hailed from the city of Urbino. Note the inscription on Euclid’s collar: R.V.S.M (Raffaello. Urbino. Suo. Mano). And Raphael includes his own portrait, staring out at the viewer, second figure from the right.
The booted and brooding figure, seated at the bottom of the steps, may be a portrait of Michelangelo as Heraclitus. This figure, who doesn’t appear in Raphael’s preparatory cartoon for the fresco, is thought to have been added as a homage to Michelangelo, following the unveiling, on August 14th, 1511, of part of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.