Where Is Epicurus In The "School of Athens"?

  • I'm also skeptical whether Epicurus would have had so prominent a spot right down front if we take the traditional attribution.

    That's another angle on this to consider. Which position is more "prominent"? The one down front with the pudgy wreathed figure, or the position located very close to the central figures of the fresco (even if somewhat obscured)?

  • That's another angle on this to consider. Which position is more "prominent"? The one down front with the pudgy wreathed figure, or the position located very close to the central figures of the fresco (even if somewhat obscured)?

    Oh! Good point!

  • Permalink:

    Elli did you find that your argument was rejected because of disagreement with your conclusion? What was the position of those who rejected your paper as to which figure represents Epicurus?

    Even if I thought you were wrong (and I think you are right) I would still think that the discussion would have been very interesting to present to an Epicurean assembly. Maybe I am missing something (?)

  • Their arguments were not based on senses and feelings. They were not based on what we see that is similar of what we have nowdays for Epicurus bust. The usage of the epicurean CANON has not been used.

    They insisted to preserve those redicule speculations that were spreaded by Popes with some writers about Art and that is : Epicurus in this fresco is that boy with the smirk and has a wreath with vine leafs on his head! This boy, as they say, has the face of a cardinal named Inghirami that was a secretary to the popes, and had a feminine nickname as Pheadra. :S

    Here you can read something about him.


    In 1510, Inghirami was appointed Prefect of the Palatine Library. As secretary to the College of Cardinals he served as secretary for the papal conclave of 1513 which elected Pope Leo X.[1] About this time he commissioned Raphael to paint his portrait. He appears in the robes of a canon of St. Peter's Basilica. Raphael had already, in 1509, used Inghirami as the model for the Greek philosopher Epicurus in his fresco The School of Athens for the papal apartments.[2][c]

    He served as secretary of the Fifth Lateran Council under Pope Julius II and, after his death, under Pope Leo X.[2]

    Inghirami was overweight at least in his final decades, as shown in Raphael's works. He suffered from strabismus, the failure of the eyes to align, a condition that Raphael disguised in his portrait by focusing his gaze away from the viewer at some unseen superior or inspiration.[10] Contemporary letters hint he was homosexual[1] or state it as plain fact,[8] an interpretation supported by Raphael's "School of Athens" where Inghirami is embraced from behind by a half-hidden male figure, and his unusual feminine nickname of Phaedra.[2]

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Yes, indeed, now that I wear my supernatural glasses, I see clearly. This face in Raphaels fresco is a close match with the Epicurus bust! ^^^^

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Great find, Joshua - so this would establish that as far back as 1810's someone was pegging that person as Epicurus --- so once again we ought to consider how the dates of the Herculaneum busts and busts at the Vatican play against this date. I will tag Elli to be sure she sees this.

  • Hello to all epicurean friends. :)

    The first found, as they claim, was of the double bust of the Epicurus with Metrodorus, and it was in 1742 in Rome. And was happened "accidentaly" during the construction of a portico in the church of St Maria Maggiore.

    The marble bust from St Maria Maggiore in Rome in which the name of Epicurus can be seen is today at the Capitolino Museo in Rome.

    The double bust was immediately placed in the collection of Pope Benedict ΧΙV.

    In 1753, a small bronze bust of Epicurus was also discovered in the Villa of the Papyri in Herculaneum, Italy, among the ashes of Vesuvius. .

    This drawing, as Joshua says, is during the years 1800-1820. Thus the drawing is after the years 1742 and 1753 that the busts of Epicurus were found.

    I want to make a hypothesis and I would like to ask something: There is a famous villa in Italy and in the area of Tivoli that is called "Villa Adriana" that was built by the emperor Hadrian.

    In that villa, as they say, there were many busts of greek philosophers, gods etc., and as the archeologists say, Hadrian wanted to show things that would overwhelm the visitor, something that had not been seen anywhere else in the world and that exists only in his Villa.

    The question is : would there be a case Hadrian had inside that villa a bust of Epicurus? :P

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Perhaps we can find an answer to that question in Bernard Frischer's book "Sculpted Word"? Or maybe we can actually find Mr. Frischer online and email him a question about this. That actually strikes me as doable.

    So where are we on this by timeline?

    The fresco was painted in the early 1500's:

    The busts from Herculaneum and Vatican were not discovered until the 1750's.

    I guess we are really talking about two things:

    (1) Do we have any evidence that Raphael himself asserted that the wreathed chubby figure was Epicurus?

    (2) When did other people start asserting that wreathed chubby figure was Epicurus? Who was that person and when and why?

    As to question (2) we now know from Joshua's post that the assertion that wreathed chubby figure is Epicurus dates at least to early 1800's. I can't read this inscription from the etching but it may or may not help with that question:

    Given the dates of the bust discoveries, if Raphael knew the correct likeness of Epicurus, it would have to be based on something else, perhaps the Hadrian villa items, or perhaps well something totally unknown to us currently - and i would indeed presume that there are or were many historical artifacts in Italy and Greece that we're not aware of in this conversation.

  • Elli, it looks like Bernard Frischer can be contacted with the material on this page: http://frischer.org/contact/

    I wonder if you would be interested in writing him? My bet is that you personally have the best chance of getting a reply from him for many reasons, not the least of which is your location and connections in Greece.

    I would wager that Mr. Frischer may well have more expertise of the likeness of Epicurus as any living person in the world at this time. Further, if he doesn't have an opinion on this himself, he is probably best positioned to ask for help from others, given that this issue is so close to his past research and interests.

    Maybe he would be interested in the Facebook page on this topic, and/or a copy of Pan's page (I think I remember he wrote a paper on this?)

  • Please let me to write some facts with persons that were involved... and as that famous phrase says "Follow the money" that is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 docudrama film entitled as: "All the President's Men", which suggests political corruption can be brought to light by examining money transfers between parties.

    Villa Adriana

    After Hadrian, the villa was occasionally used by his various successors Antoninus Pius (138–161), Marcus Aurelius (161–180), Lucius Verus (161–169), Septimius Severus and Caracalla have been found on the premises). Zenobia, the deposed queen of Palmyra, possibly lived there in the 270s.

    During the decline of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, the villa gradually fell into disuse and was partially ruined as valuable statues and marble were taken away.

    From whom the statues and the marble were taken away?

    From persons like this one:

    Bindo Altoviti who lived in the years 1491-1557 of the House of Altoviti was an Italian banker and one of the most influential papal bankers of his generation. A patron of the arts, he cultivated close friendships with artists such as Cellini, Raphael, Michelangelo and Vasari.

    His father was Antonio Altoviti, the papal Master of the Mint, and his mother was La Papessa Dianora Altoviti, niece of Pope Innocent VIII. One of his direct descendants was Pope Clement XII.

    Like other Florentines who provided loans to the popes in exchange for the rights to papal revenues, Bindo prospered. He enjoyed the financial resources to undertake extensive renovations to the properties he inherited from his father and his suburban villa on the Tiber, and to indulge a growing passion for art. Known for, and endowed with, a strong taste for art, he became a patron of the arts and friend to Cellini, Raphael, Michelangelo and Vasari.

    Immortalized in the portrait by Raphael (see the picture), he gave sanctuary to Michelangelo when he fled from Florence to Rome. Michelangelo had such a high esteem for Bindo, while he despised his rival Agostino Chigi, that he gave him as a gift the cartoon of Noah's Blessing (lost), used for the fresco in the vault of the Sistine Chapel as well as a drawing of a Venus (lost) colored by Vasari. It was also Michelangelo who convinced Bindo not to rebuild, but to preserve, the Santi Apostoli church.

    Vasari painted the Allegory of the Immaculate Conception for the family chapel. When in Rome, Vasari also used to stay at the Palazzo Altoviti where he frescoed the Triumph of Ceres. When the palazzo was demolished in order to create the Tiber's embankments, the frescos were removed and are now shown in the National Museum of Palazzo Venezia.

    For Bindo's suburban villa Vasari frescoed a vast loggia called the Vineyard, decorated with statues and burial marbles from Emperor Hadrian's Villa Adriana.

    My hypothesis is : that Bindo Altoviti must had a bust of Epicurus and it had pointed out to his friend the painter Raphael. For this reason Raphael has painted Epicurus figure on his fresco “the school of Athens” so identical and so similar to our known busts.

    For the history Bindo Altoviti’s descendants were:

    Bindo's son Giovanni Battista Altoviti married Clarice Ridolfi, daughter of Lorenzo Ridolfi, grandson of Lorenzo il Magnifico di Medici and Clarice Orsini, bringing about a reconciliation between the houses of Altoviti, Medici and Strozzi. This made it possible for Bindo's other son, Archbishop of Florence Antonio Altoviti, finally to live in his bishopric. Giovanni Battista himself remained a banker in Rome, was twice consul of the Nazione Fiorentina, and exercised, under Pius V, the offices of an apostolic general and the Depositario dell'Abbondanza.

    Marietta Altoviti married Giambattista Strozzi, which also strengthened the link between the houses of Strozzi and Medici. Their descendants became the Strozzi dukes of Bagnolo and princes of Forano, the Corsini princes of Sismano, dukes of Casigliano and Civitella, and most prominent Pope Clement XII.

    Their granddaughter Lucrezia Maria Strozzi married Prince Aleksander Ludwik Radziwiłł, Voivode of Polock, Grand Marshal of Lithuania and member of the Radziwiłł family, magnates of Poland and Lithuania. Prince Anton Radziwiłł was the husband of Louise of Prussia. The couple were important patrons of the arts in Berlin during the 19th century. Their later heir Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł was married to Caroline Lee Radziwill, sister of the late First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and sister-in-law of President John F. Kennedy.

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • I suppose too as part of our discussion we ought to consider the possibility too that Raphael knew of the true likeness of Epicurus, but still chose to portray him as a wreathed cherubic figure as a means of insulting him.

    That may be unlikely, but it is one possibility that if we're being complete we need to include in the analysis. Presumably the most likely scenario is that Raphael intended to portray Epicurus accurately, and the question is whether he had means of knowing the true likeness. Short of finding some document by Raphael himself stating his intentions, however, we can't presume to a certainty that just because a correct image was available in the early 1500's that Raphael used it. The full list of possibilities would include (1) A correct image might have existed and he chose not to use it, or (2) a correct image existed but he was unaware of it, or (3) no correct image existed in the 1500's except underground.

  • This is the work by Takis Panagiotopoulos that is a founding member in the garden of Athens.


    Please trust me, my friend Cassius, in the greek gardens there are persons that claim for themselves that are epicureans and at the sametime ACCEPT, without using their senses and feelings, whatever is served by the vatican popes. What do you do not understand?

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Raphael did not leave any written notes who is who in this fresco! All are speculations.

    However, Aristotle, Plato Socrates were painted by him similar with their busts. Raphael had info for these philosophers busts, but he had no info for Epicurus bust, but at the same time in his fresco Raphael has painted a person that is similar with the bust of Epicurus. Raphael had info for Socrates bust, but he had no info for the latest philosophical mainstreams that were prevailed in Athens and in Rome, and these were Epicurean philosophy and stoicism. Interesting eh? :/

    Beauty and virtue and such are worthy of honor, if they bring pleasure; but if not then bid them farewell!

  • Elli I see this section from the Wikipedia article but I have never seen pictures of any of these preliminary sketches. Have you found them and checked to see whether there are any details in the figures that would bear on your thesis?

  • I see one view of the cartoon is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/0…lan-school-of-athens.html

    and indeed the area you are pointing to is different:

    As is the chubby wreathed figure:

    My first impression is that these differences help your thesis, but that's only a first thought based on thinking that the preliminary sketch appears to be a generic set of onlookers with a man whose head is twisted as if he is paying particular attention or is otherwise an inferior student. On the other hand the finished product appears to be a dead ringer for Epicurus with much different head position and facial expression. I don't think you would insert someone strong like that (complete with philosopher beard) unless you wanted to feature a particularly important person.

    If we could get a more clear view of that twisted head figure we might be able to learn more.

    Also, the forerunner of the wreathed figure looks nothing like a Greek philosopher at all (nor does the current wreathed figure.)