Study for the figure of Diogenes in the School of Athens
Silver point on pinkish pale-violet prepared paper
Inv. No. 380 (Purchased by Johann David Passavant at the auction of the collection of King William II in The Hague, 1850)
24.4 × 28.3 cm
On the wall of the »Stanza della Segnatura« in the Vatican Palace, opposite the Disputa which illustrates the intellectual world of Theology, Raphael executed the School of Athens as a symbolic representation of Philosophy. In a setting of monumental classical architecture, it depicts an assembly of the greatest philosophers of Greek antiquity, deeply engaged in expounding and discussing ideas with their pupils and other listeners.
The Cynic Diogenes – who represents a doctrine of simple self-sufficiency and disregard of social norms and values – sprawls casually, only partially clothed, across the middle of the broad steps of the spacious hall in which the figures have gathered. Immersed in his reading, Diogenes is indifferent to the fact that he is blocking the way for Plato and Aristotle as they approach. Representing a preliminary stage of work on this figure, the Städel Museum’s silver-point drawing epitomizes Raphael’s method of working. We have here a study based on a nude model, possibly a member of the artist’s workshop, who has stripped off all but his short breeches for the occasion. Just a few lightly drawn lines added later serve to suggest Diogenes’s costume. In order to depict a body in a manner as realistic and lifelike in its movements as possible, Raphael repeated individual sections of the figure, paying particular attention to the joints and the foreshortening of the limbs. He later transferred the chosen pose to the fresco without making any further changes.
While the preliminary drawing for the Disputa is executed in pen and ink, for the Diogenes study Raphael used silver point on reddish tinted paper. Lines of a swift, free, and nevertheless confident character demarcate the bodily forms while also conveying a sense of their volume, which is further modelled by hatched areas of shading. The silver-point technique has been employed here in such a way that, in conjunction with the tinted ground, it achieves the effect of colour. Raphael thus evidently executed the drawing with an awareness of the finished fresco’s colouration.