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Flying like earthly mercuries: renaissance Platonism in Raphael’s Stanza Della Segnatura
Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura, painted between 1508 and 1511 CE, is considered one of the greatest works of Renaissance painting. The frescoes themselves ostensibly represent the disciplines of philosophy, theology, poetry, and the law, however, further inspection reveals a deeper synthesis. A different perspective from which to view the frescoes in the stanza considers the philosophic underpinning of the room, where the symbolism evoked points to a system of thought that developed in Renaissance Italy during the half century preceding Raphael’s masterpiece: Renaissance Platonism. Two key thinkers, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, created a humanistic Platonism that syncretized elements of Christianity, Neoplatonism, Orphism, Pythagoreanism, Ciceronian, and Hermetic thought into a philosophic theology steeped in initiation, mystery and symbolism. Through analysis of the Stanza della Segnatura, especially the relationships between the individual frescoes and the gestures used within each, the elements of Renaissance Platonism can be found.