Whose likeness reportedly served as the artist’s inspiration for the figure of Plato in “The School of Athens”?
Leonardo da Vinci
The School of Athens (Italian: Scuola di Atene) is one of the most famous frescoes by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael.
School of Athens: Composition
In the centre we see Plato (long white beard and the features of Leonardo da Vinci), text of the Timaeus in hand, the other hand pointing to heaven, the “seat of all ideas”. At his side is Aristotle, in turn holding his Ethics and pointing to the earth. The two philosophers and their gesturing make a point which is the core of the philosophy of Marsilio Ficino: Aristotle’s gesture symbolizes the positive spirit; the vertical gesture of Plato alludes to a superior quality, the contemplation of ideas.
Plato (427 – 347 BC) holds a copy of his Timaeus, and gestures upward to the aetherial realm of his eternal forms. This Plato is probably a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (Italian: [leoˈnardo di ˌsɛr ˈpjɛːro da (v)ˈvintʃi] ( listen); 15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519), more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.