The School of Athens was painted by Raphael in 1501 during the Renaissance period. Meaning "rebirth", (academic.brooklyn.cuny) the word, "Renaissance" refers to the entire social rebirth of Europe during the sixteenth century. The Renaissance was a time of philosophical, artistic, social, and educational reformation. The School of Athens references the idea of a "Renaissance man", someone who excels in various areas of study and embodies Renaissance values: philosophy, humanism, service and involvement with the state, a balance of religion and secularism, and education (academic.brooklyn.cuny). Humanism was a Renaissance concept which emphasized leading an active life rather than solely depending on religious devotion for the hopes of an after-life. Also, humanism supports individual involvement in order to improve participation and on whole, unify the state (Hale).
Plato, Aristotle, and many other well-known Greek philosophers are present in the fresco, touching on the importance of philosophy and classicism (arthistoryguide). Some people are positioned as if they appear to be thinking, highlighting the constant longing for discovery and thought. The importance of education is obvious, due to the mass references towards possessing and attaining knowledge. With books in hand, people are sitting on the steps of the majestically-lit setting. The books represent the yearning for self-improvement. The lighting of the painting, with the light source being from the small remnants of a sky at the top of the painting that you vaguely see through a window, suggests a religious reference. Religion was not excluded from this period, but rather Renaissance people strived to integrate religion and secularism in a more realistic fashion (arthistoryguide). It is notable that only men are present in the painting. Women were excluded from this educational reformation, because at this time, they were still considered unimportant and unintelligent.
During the Renaissance, having an education and exposure to philosophical ideals was important, and it was impressive to be knowledgeable. The School of Athens shows how valued education really was. If you were educated, you had power. Specifically for men, it was beautiful to be knowledgeable, and your physical appearance was unimportant. Marriage, for example, pretty much depended on your income and business success; you would attract potential partners by your social and professional status. And you could become successful socially and business-wise by receiving an education. Attractiveness was determined by the knowledge you possessed.
Hale, J. R.The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance. 1994. Print.
"'The School of Athens' by Raphael - Characters, Figues, and Significant People."Art History & Periods, Artist Biographies, Art Galleries, & Art Schools. Web. <"http://www.arthistoryguide.com/The_School_of_Athens.aspx">.