Raphael, Disputa (or Theology), Stanza della Segnatura, 1508-1511
Professor Kim Butler Wingfield recently published an article titled “Networks of Knowledge: Inventing Theology in the Stanza della Segnatura” (Studies in Iconography, 2017). Contrary to the traditional privileging of The School of Athens (“Philosophy”), she argues that the so-called Disputa fresco, more accurately termed “Theology,” was intended as the centerpiece of Pope Julius II’s private library. The most materially lavish and conceptually elaborate fresco in the room, Theology features a portrait of Julius as Gregory the Great, author of texts that help identify themes in the fresco: including the nature of the Eucharist, Christ’s material body, the immortal soul, angels, and divine cognition. The collaborative relationship between Raphael, Julius, and the Christian Platonist Giles of Viterbo—identified in Philosophy in the guise of Zoroaster, the founder of the single “true theology” transmitted to Pythagoras and Plato—in designing these frescoes is assessed, with a focus on Raphael’s conceptual inventiveness and grasp of difficult intellectual doctrines. Ultimately, the frescoes are understood to foreground relational “networks of knowledge” in keeping with their function to support learned contemplation in a private library space.
Dr. Butler Wingfield will present an overview of this research this Wednesday, September 13 in an Early Modern Art History Washington, D.C. faculty “Round Table” colloquium. She will also present on the importance of Dante’s thought to the Stanza della Segnatura in the Early Modern Rome III Conference in Rome, Italy, in early October, as well as on the relevance of Renaissance doctrinal controversies to the Stanza della Segnatura and the Stanza d’Eliodoro in the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Milwaukee later that same month.