Art Historical Inside Jokes

Tweet Greetings from Italia! My first two weeks here have been full of pasta, sunshine, and adjusting to countryside-Italian living. In addition to visiting an olive oil mill, adventuring into the nearby town of Orvieto and seeing its beautiful duomo, or … Read More

Greetings from Italia! My first two weeks here have been full of pasta, sunshine, and adjusting to countryside-Italian living. In addition to visiting an olive oil mill, adventuring into the nearby town of Orvieto and seeing its beautiful duomo, or cathedral (more on that later), and sampling the local pizza, I've been thoroughly ensconced in art historical education. One of my professors here in Amelia (see my last post) is an expert in early seventeenth-century Italian art, and so naturally, he began our first class by talking about Caravaggio. Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio is perhaps one of the most important and influential figures in the history of western art. He was also, incidentally, a total rebel. He was quick to anger, and was at one point arrested for killing a man over a disputed tennis match. The drama in his personal life directly translated into his art, as his command of drastic changes from light to dark (also known as chiaroscuro) make his scenes emotionally moving and incredibly engaging. He was also, unsurprisingly, incredibly full of himself, and deemed himself the most famous painter in Rome. He even went so far as to call himself "The Better Michelangelo," referring, of course, to his preeminent predecessor, Michelangelo Buonarroti, while simultaneously referencing his given name. His comparison of himself to Michelangelo, however, did not stop there. At the end of the sixteenth century, Caravaggio began his so-called Saint Matthew Cycle, which consisted of three paintings depicting the life of Saint Matthew for the San Luigi dei Francesi church in Rome. One of the first paintings he completed was The Calling of Saint Matthew, which depicts the moment at which Christ calls Matthew to be one of his disciples.
caravaggio calling saint matthew
[caption id="attachment_4043" align="aligncenter" width="528"] Caravaggio's Calling of Saint Matthew[/caption] Caravaggio intentionally inserted a sort of wink to his forebear in a small detail that often goes unnoticed. Namely, the hand of the figure in the upper-right hand register mirrors that of the hand of Adam in Michelangelo's masterpiece The Creation of Adam. [caption id="attachment_4044" align="aligncenter" width="475"] Detail of Caravaggio's Calling of Saint Matthew with detail of Michelangelo's Creation of Adam[/caption] By making this visual homage, Caravaggio asserts his own position within the art historical canon while also reinforcing the religious message of his painting. The implied cue to the viewer of the painting is that Caravaggio is as talented - and as important - as Michelangelo, which was a pretty grand statement to make at that time. It may seem like a silly coincidence, but Caravaggio never did anything unintentionally. And besides, it's these kinds of visual jokes and puns that keep art historians such as myself trudging along the hard road of academia.

Ciao Gallery Direct!

Tweet Greetings from Italy! It’s been a while since I posted to Off the Wall, but in my defense, I have been in transit. I am pleased to announce that I am officially Gallery Direct’s first Foreign Correspondant! After finishing … Read More

Greetings from Italy! It's been a while since I posted to Off the Wall, but in my defense, I have been in transit. I am pleased to announce that I am officially Gallery Direct's first Foreign Correspondant! After finishing my internship in the merchandising and marketing department, I said goodbye to beautiful Austin for a summer of postgraduate education, traveling, and, of course, lots of art. I am honored to be taking part in the Postgraduate Certificate Program of ARCA, the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art. As you may recall from my previous posts about the Isabella Stewart Gardner theft and the destruction of two Klimt paintings during World War II, I have a special interest in art crime and cultural heritage protection. This ten-week intensive program will allow me to explore these kinds of topics in-depth in both a practical and academic setting. Oh, did I mention that this all takes place in a small, hillside town in Umbria?
amelia umbria italy
[caption id="attachment_4021" align="aligncenter" width="528"]amelia umbria italy View of the Umbrian city of Amelia, Italy.[/caption] My first week of classes consisted of a crash-course in the contemporary art market. Learning about the inner-workings of the gallery world, the auction houses, the role of the dealer and the collector, as well as the new, speculative market that has recently taken shape, I got to thinking about how Gallery Direct is very much on the cutting edge of the market. With the growth of technology, art is disseminating more quickly than ever before, as even large auction houses like Christie's conduct some sales either partially or entirely online. It's almost too obvious to say that the online marketplace allows more and more people to participate in the art market than ever before. But what distinguishes Gallery Direct from those traditional institutions that are adapting to the digital space is that our model allows us to price our artwork at a level that is accessible to everyone. Being in the art world is consistently governed by who has the most change to spare, and as prices at the auction house flock toward the billions of dollars, it's so encouraging to see, as a young student, that there are alternatives to these unimaginable sums. Working at Gallery Direct was great exposure to the potentials of the future of the art world, and I am so glad to continue that exploration from abroad. This summer will be filled with adventure, education, and loads of great art. I'll be sure to keep you updated on all of the above.

Behind the scenes with Justin Garcia

Tweet Justin Garcia is just as dynamic as his paintings.  His signature style shines through his personality and all that he does.  He is truly as authentic as they come. A small team of us at Gallery Direct, spent a … Read More

Justin Garcia is just as dynamic as his paintings.  His signature style shines through his personality and all that he does.  He is truly as authentic as they come. A small team of us at Gallery Direct, spent a day with Justin in his Houston-based studio and captured everything on video so that you could get to know him as well.  His personality and inspiration makes me love his paintings even more. Justin wants people to connect with his artwork and question what they see, and why they see it.   His work incorporates mixed media of oils, acrylics and compound texture on canvas and wood, and for more exotic pieces, often features unique materials such as Plexiglas, railroad nails and stained glass. His art studio is just cool as you would imagine an accomplished artist's space to be, maybe even a little cooler, since there was a black cat roaming around with confidence. Justin met Gallery Direct's Art Director, Nick Nichols, several years ago and instantly fell into a synergistic partnership.  I won't spoil all the highlights, watch the video to learn more: Chromaticity is my favorite series by Justin Garcia. What is your favorite works of his? View his works here: Justin Garcia

Art Historical Humor

Tweet Despite reports to the contrary, art historians can be funny, that’s why this post is dedicated to “Art Historical Humor.” Sure, our jokes are nerdy to the point of embarrassment and potentially oblique (in other words, not funny to … Read More

Despite reports to the contrary, art historians can be funny, that's why this post is dedicated to "Art Historical Humor." Sure, our jokes are nerdy to the point of embarrassment and potentially oblique (in other words, not funny to anyone else), but we try. One of my favorite instances of art historical jocularity came about two weeks ago, when Amsterdam celebrated the reopening of the Rijksmuseum, a Dutch national treasure whose main building had been closed for ten years due to a major renovation. The reopening of the museum was celebrated throughout Europe, and art and architecture critics have hailed it as a vast improvement. In order to publicize the museum's rebirth, the museum staff called upon a modern phenomenon - the flashmob - combining tradition and the new age with singular style. Taking place in a popular shopping mall, staff members recreated one of the museum's most well known and beloved paintings, Rembrandt van Rijn's Night Watch.
rembrandt night watch
rembrandt night watch painting Widely considered to be Rembrandt's masterpiece, the 1642 oil on canvas measures approximately 12 by 14 feet, and is one of the finest examples of Rembrandt's mastery of chiaroscuro. The eponymous night watch is led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq (the central figure, marked by a red sash) and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch (in yellow), accompanied by a cast of characters, all of whom are portrayed in the flashmob recreation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6W2ZMpsxhg See? What did I tell you? Our humor is top-notch.
There are so many holidays celebrating the things that are near and dear to our hearts: Earth Day, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day (don't forget - that's coming up!), etc. Last year, in honor of Leonardo da Vinci's birthday, April 15th, the International Association of Art (IAA) declared today World Art Day. And why not? Art is something that has the power to bring people from all over the globe together , and is the pinnacle of our collective heritage as the human race. Though it's still in its infancy, World Art Day is a great opportunity to take a moment to consider how art has impacted your life as well as the way you take in the world around you. The IAA, upon its consecration of World Art Day, stated that the primary purpose of the celebration is to spread "art awareness throughout the globe." You don't have to be an artist or an art historian to recognize the significance of artistic creation as an expression of our humanity. So join the conversation! What artist has meant the most to you in your life? Have you ever encountered a painting or sculpture that made you stop dead in your tracks? If you could pick any work of art to hang in your house, what would it be? We want to know! Gallery Direct wishes you a happy World Art Day, and happy birthday to the man of the hour (or rather, the millennium), Leonardo da Vinci.
vitruvian man birthday

Happy Birthday, Maria Sibylla Merian!

Tweet Today, Google commemorated what would have been Maria Sibylla Merian’s 366th birthday with a Google Doodle. Merian, a seventeenth-century naturalist and artist, has been credited with making important contributions to the fields of botany and entomology. Born in Frankfurt in 1647, … Read More

Today, Google commemorated what would have been Maria Sibylla Merian's 366th birthday with a Google Doodle. Merian, a seventeenth-century naturalist and artist, has been credited with making important contributions to the fields of botany and entomology.

Born in Frankfurt in 1647, Merian, the daughter of an engraver, was one of the few women of her time to be so deeply involved and successful in a scientific profession. In addition to being a pioneer in her field, she also broke new ground when she undertook a dangerous research expedition to South America with her daughter without a male companion, which was practically inconceivable at the time. Her talent as an illustrator is matched only by her insight into the world of insects and plant life, as evidenced by the hundreds of plates and drawings of the nature and its inhabitants that she produced.

Between the years 1675 and 1680, Merian published her first book, The New Book of Flowers, in three volumes. The illustrations, such as the one above, are considered to be landmarks in the development of botanical printing and illustration.

Merian also undertook a serious study of the development of caterpillars, and in 1679, published The Caterpillars' Marvelous Transformation and Strange Floral Food. One of the first naturalists to observe insects directly in nature, her work on caterpillars is considered to be a major advance in entomology.

Many of her botanical prints, such as Two Simple Narcissicontain glimpses of her interest in caterpillars and butterflies, demonstrating how she combined her two passions in her work. Merian was both an insightful scientific mind and an incredibly proficient artist. It is rare indeed that someone is endowed with one of these remarkable talents; that she possessed both is extraordinary. By capturing every detail of a flower or an insect, Merian became known for her ability to both truthfully represent a subject in a scientific way and produce a beautiful piece of art. This is wonderfully exemplified in prints such as Dutch Rose.

We here at Gallery Direct are proud to print a handful of Merian prints for your home or office. Whether you're looking for roses that will never lose their bloom or a simple hyacinth, Merian's illustrations are not only beautiful, but also represent an important art historical moment - the meeting of science and aesthetics.

Art, Missing in Action

Tweet In my last blog post, I revealed that one of my more eccentric interests is art-related crimes. As such, last week I was bombarded with news about the 1990 theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. … Read More

In my last blog post, I revealed that one of my more eccentric interests is art-related crimes. As such, last week I was bombarded with news about the 1990 theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. Last Monday marked the 23rd anniversary of the heist, which lasted approximately 81 minutes in the early hours of March 18th, 1990 in the wake of Saint Patrick's Day revelry. It is the single largest peacetime property theft in history, with the spoils valued at about $500 million. [caption id="attachment_3544" align="aligncenter" width="400"] The empty frames of works taken from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Photo courtesy of artnews.com.[/caption] Last Monday, the aforementioned anniversary, the FBI, who has valiantly headed up the investigation since 1990, put out a press release claiming that they have identified the thieves that have eluded them for all of these years. According to Richard DesLauriers, the special agent in charge at the FBI's Boston office, “The FBI believes with a high degree of confidence in the years after the theft the art was transported to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region and some of the art was taken to Philadelphia where it was offered for sale by those responsible for the theft. With that confidence, we have identified the thieves, who are members of a criminal organization with a base in the mid-Atlantic states and New England." My news conduits have been filled with hurrahs and hoorays and anticipatory speculation these past few days, but I have not been able to shake my admittedly jaded perspective that this is all just false promise. The Gardner case has haunted the FBI and the Boston arts community for over two decades, and people are understandably desperate for some good news. That the press release came out on the anniversary of the theft is all the more telling - it all just seems too neat to me. Additionally, the quote above forces me to raise an eyebrow if only because I was surprised to learn that this information was news to the FBI. Organized crime syndicates are behind a significant percentage of art thefts, and countless leads from the Gardner theft have been related to criminal organizations. That this particular organization is based in New England and the mid-Atlantic should come as no surprise, given that the theft occurred in Boston. This same kind of celebratory sounding-off occurred when Whitey Bulger, a longtime suspect associated with Boston criminal organizations, was arrested in June 2011 on charges unrelated to the museum theft. Almost two years later, we may be experiencing yet another false victory high. I can understand why this would be the case. The Gardner heist is not only an egregious act against the public's right to its cultural heritage, but it also appears to be a very complex and intricate crime. It has been the subject of countless articles, books, and documentaries, and speculation has taken investigators all over the US and Europe in search of the paintings and the culprits. If you find yourself intrigued by the case, I highly recommend Ulrich Boser's book, The Gardner Heist. There are simply too many ways for me to get carried away with talking about the Gardner case, so here is a very simplified version of the events: On March 18th, 1990, just before 1:30am, two men dressed as policemen approached the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and requested entrance from the night security guard, claiming that they were investigating a disturbance. Against protocol, the guard allowed them to enter. The guards on duty were bound and gagged, and were put in the basement of the museum while the thieves, in just over an hour, took 13 works of art, including three Rembrandts, five works by Degas, a Manet, and a Vermeer. The loss of the Vermeer has been noted as particularly devastating, given that there are less than 40 extant Vermeer paintings known today. [caption id="attachment_3546" align="aligncenter" width="500"] The thirteen missing works. From the top left: Vermeer's The Concert, Rembrandt's Self Portrait, Degas's La Sortie de Pesage, Degas's Program for an artistic soiree (one of two), Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galiliee, bronze finial in the form of an eagle from the top of a Napoleonic flag, a Shang Dynasty Chinese Ku, Rembrandt's A Lady and Gentleman in Black, Degas's Program for an artistic soiree (two of two), Govaert Flinck's Landscape with an Obelisk, Manet's Chez Tortoni, Degas's Cortege aux environs de Florence, and Degas's Three Mounted Jockeys. Image courtesy of The Art Newspaper.[/caption] No one has their fingers crossed more tightly than I do that the paintings are eventually recovered. As Anthony Amore, chief of security at the Gardner (whose excellent book Stealing Rembrandts is a fantastic resource for those looking for an introduction to the study of art crimes) said, "this investigation is an exercise in finding 13 needles in a haystack by making the haystack smaller." It seems to me as though the haystack is still quite large. A colleague of mine said it best: I'll believe it when they find the paintings and start prosecuting. For now, I'll spend some time wistfully staring at the RembrandtsDegasManets,and Vermeers that are still around.

Wartime Damage and Destruction

Tweet If you’ve seen any of my previous blog posts, you’ll know that I’m an art history afficianado. You may not know, however, that my primary area of interest is a bit peculiar. I am interested in art crimes and … Read More

If you've seen any of my previous blog posts, you'll know that I'm an art history afficianado. You may not know, however, that my primary area of interest is a bit peculiar. I am interested in art crimes and cultural heritage protection. In fact, I will be pursuing a post-graduate degree in the field this upcoming summer - but more on that another time. My first real training in the field was last year when I participated in the Provenance Research Training Program in Magdeburg, Germany, which is a course dedicated to the theories and methodologies involved in studying art that was destroyed, stolen, looted, or otherwise obtained by the Nazi regime during World War II. I could go on and on about the topic, and I'm sure you'll hear more about it in future blog posts, but today, I want to focus on two paintings that I came across in Gallery Direct's growing collection of modern masters. Namely, Gustav Klimt's Garden Path with Chickens and Hygieia (a detail from his painting Medicine). Along with thousands of other works of art, these two paintings were destroyed by Axis forces during the war. By all accounts, Hygieia is an exemplar of Klimt's so-called Golden Phase, which prominently featured stunning figures, usually women, rendered in bold colors (the most well known example being The Kiss). Hygieia, a figure from Ancient Greek mythology, is the focal point of his painting Medicine, one of three paintings Klimt made for the University of Vienna. The goddess of health, well-being, and hygiene, she was the daughter of the god of medicine, Asclepius. Klimt depicts her holding in one hand the cup of Lethe, symbolizing one of the rivers of the underworld, and in the other, the Asclepian snake, which symbolized healing and the renewal of health. By juxtaposing a symbol of death and a symbol of life, Klimt represents life and death not as too diametric opposites, but rather as two parts of a single, unified cycle. Klimt's use of mythological allegories in his paintings is one of the aspects of his work as a symbolist that are so unique. Along with the other two paintings commissioned to Klimt for the University of Vienna, Medicine was rejected as pornographic, and went on instead to be featured in the Tenth Exhibition of the Vienna Secession in 1901. After the exhibition, it was purchased by Klimt's friend and fellow Vienna Secession artist, Koloman Moser, and it eventually passed into the collection of a Jewish family. Sadly, the collection was seized in 1938 bythe Third Reich, as Jewish property was deemed to be the property of the German state. This was the case with thousands of families and millions of objects, many of which are still missing to this day. Garden Path with Chickens is not what one would consider a "typical" Klimt painting. Created in 1917, the colorful garden scene demonstrates that in addition to his groundbreaking subject matter and style, Klimt was also a precise and masterful technician of his craft. The detail of each individual flower and the considered blending of colors demonstrate how dedicated Klimt was to perfecting even the most minute and intricate aspects of his compositions. Garden Path was incorporated into the collection of Erich Lederer, which, along with many other works, including Medicine, was relocated to the Schloss Immendorf in Austria at the beginning of World War II, ostensibly for safekeeping. Throughout the war, countless objects, monuments, and landmarks were stolen, destroyed, or defaced, but even after the fall of the Third Reich, the damage continued. After the Nazi regime fell and SS troops were instructed to return to Germany, they left a path of destruction in their wake. One victim was the Schloss Immendorf, which was destroyed by a fire set by Nazi troops on their way out of Austria. All of the paintings within were completely lost, so all that remains of them today are the artist's preliminary sketches and photographs. That is, perhaps, what makes it so remarkable that we are able to have these two paintings at Gallery Direct, as we ensure that while the originals may be lost, and can surely never be replaced, the memory of the paintings and the horrific way in which they were lost endures.

Star-Gazing with Sidney Hall

Tweet One of the great things about working with the merchandising team at Gallery Direct is that I have crawled and crept through every corner of our enormous digital collection. It is such great fun to discover all the amazing … Read More

One of the great things about working with the merchandising team at Gallery Direct is that I have crawled and crept through every corner of our enormous digital collection. It is such great fun to discover all the amazing images we have (that's everyone's idea of fun, right?). A few weeks ago, I came across yet another hidden gem in our historical holdings: a series of constellation engravings by nineteenth-century engraver Sidney Hall.  [caption id="attachment_3497" align="aligncenter" width="528"] "Virgo"[/caption] A couple months ago in my inaugural blog post, I revealed my quirky obsession with nineteenth-century maps. Apparently I'm not the only person with a penchant for geography, because our vintage maps section has since taken off. When these kinds of maps were growing in popularity, cartographers and engravers alike also turned their attention skywards, and began publishing what were referred to as "star atlases," or celestial atlases. Sidney Hall, a fairly successful British cartographer, begun his career by contributing engravings to popular international atlases. Around 1825, however, following the major success of Alexander Jamieson's Celestial Atlas, published in 1822, Hall was asked to created a set of 32 engravings depicting the sky's constellations. Published as a set of cards under the title Urania's Minor or A View of the Heavens, Hall created two editions of the cards, the later of which, released in 1833, have become iconic interpretations of the skies above. [caption id="attachment_3498" align="aligncenter" width="528"] "Cancer"[/caption] Hall's engravings were accompanied by a text by Jehoshaphat Aspin, A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy. The cards served the dual purpose of illustrating the text, as well as serving as practical astronomical tools for consumers. In addition to the illustrations of figures and animals that Hall uses to depict the constellations, he accurately places the actual stars along the constellation lines. What's more, the manufacturers of the cards punched small holes where the stars are represented to allow light to come through. [caption id="attachment_3499" align="aligncenter" width="528"] "Gemini," with visible star holes.[/caption] This allowed for two things for people interested in the night sky: one could hold the card up in the air to properly locate and align the constellations, or project a shadow of the constellation onto a surface by holding the card up to a light. The card above, showing the twin stars, Castor and Pollux, commonly referred to as Gemini, gives a clear view of the star holes inserted into the cards. I love learning about how our predecessors conceived and thought about the world around them. Looking at maps and celestial atlases is a great way to get a glimpse into how conceptions of the world were changing with innovations in transportation, communication, and industry. In addition to the nerdy, historical aspects, I think these cards make awesome pieces for wall art. A close friend of mine just had a baby in early August, so I'm thinking for the baby's first birthday, I'm going to have the "Leo" constellation printed on birchwood for the her room in honor of her astrological sign. [caption id="attachment_3500" align="aligncenter" width="528"] "Leo Major and Leo Minor"[/caption] So, what's your sign?
In 1508, famed High Renaissance painter and architect Raphael was given the commission that would make his career. The young artist was asked by Pope Julius II and his personal architect Donato Bramante to create the massive frescoes that adorn what are known today as the Stanze di Raffaello, or Raphael Rooms, of the Vatican Palace. Raphael's first conquest was the Stanza della Segnatura, which now contains four of his most beautiful and well-known frescoes, The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament,The Parnassus, Cardinal and Theological Virtues, and, his masterpiece, The School of Athens. Each of these four frescoes was meant to represent the four areas of human knowledge: religion, poetry, jurisprudence, and philosophy. Toward the end of 1509, Raphael began his second fresco of the series, The School of Athens, representing philosophy. Since its creation in the Apostolic Palace, it has been endlessly revered and contemplated.

Raphael's intricate fresco, measuring approximately 25 by 16 feet, contains nearly 60 figures in a beautifully arranged and appointed background. For hundreds of years, art historians and scholars of philosophy, classics, and mathematics have attempted to identify the different figures, though it seems that Raphael was intentionally vague in the majority of the depictions, with a few exceptions. What we can be sure about is that the two central figures represent Plato (on the left) and Aristotle (on the right). Raphael depicts Plato pointing to the heavens and Aristotle gesturing toward the earth - a commentary on their respective philosophies. Other figures that can be identified with some degree of certainty include Pythagoras, Socrates, Diogenes, Ptolemy, Heraclitus, and Euclid. Despite the many questions about the identities of the figures, what remains clear is that Raphael is representing thinkers from across myriad schools, time periods, and geographical locations from classical antiquity. Thus, he is not attempting to depict an historical moment, but rather a thematic representation of Greek philosophy at its finest. Identifying the figures becomes even more difficult when one realizes that they often have double identities - one from antiquity, and one from Raphael's own time. Many have speculated, for example, that Plato can also be identified as Leonardo da Vinci, Heraclitus has the visage of Michelangelo, and that Euclid shares features with Bramante. [caption id="attachment_3470" align="aligncenter" width="437"] Detail, Raphael's Plato with Leonardo da Vinci's 1510 self-portrait[/caption] So, why did Raphael choose to imbue his figures with this double identity? During the Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman writers and thinkers experienced a renewed popularity, and were respected as the premier philosophers throughout history. By blurring the line between figures from classical antiquity and his own peers, Raphael asserts that the thinkers of the Renaissance were on par with their formidable predecessors. The artist also blatantly includes an image of himself, gazing out to the viewer. In addition to his commentary on the relative status of the Renaissance in relation to antiquity, Raphael boldly breaks with tradition regarding his representation of the idea of philosophy. While those who came before him tended to represent philosophy in a purely allegorical way (or at least in a way in which the allegory or ideal of philosophy is given more importance than its human practitioners), Raphael humanizes his topic. He does not forsake the allegorical depiction of philosophy, but rather makes it almost secondary relative to the rest of the subjects. The personification of philosophy, often called Philosophia, appears in the accompanying tondo (an Italian term for a round painting or sculpture). The tondo above the The School of Athens announces the subject of the work, in the same fashion as the other frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura. The beautiful Philosophia sits upon a throne, flanked by two cherubim bearing the words "Causarum Cognitio," a reference to Cicero meaning, "Knowledge of causes." She holds two books, one entitled "Morals," the other, "Nature." This is a classical depiction of Philosophy, and yet within the context of The School of Athens, the figure is relatively diminutive. The tondo is merely six feet in diameter, and because it is over 25 feet off the ground, it is hardly easy to see from eye level. Furthermore, while tradition dictates that the depiction of Philosophy should be the focal point of a work, Raphael isolates her from the rest of his work. While she may loom over the individual practitioners of the art of philosophy, the latter are nonetheless the primary subjects, overwhelming the former in size, number, and relevance. By making the practitioners the focal point of his fresco, Raphael humanizes and indeed secularizes the practice of philosophy. Like so many of his compositions (a personal favorite is the cherubim detail in his Sistine Madonna), Raphael's School of Athens truly rewards careful study and contemplation.