chapter  9
27 Pages

Mathematical Imagination in Raphael’s School of Athens


In Le Vite , Giorgio Vasari makes one of the earliest comments on the praiseworthy mathematical aspects of Raphael’s School of Athens when he writes, “It is not possible to describe the beauty of those astrologers and geometricians drawing many fi gures and characters on tablets with their compasses.” 1 He goes on to give a description of Euclid: “a fi gure bends toward the ground with a pair of compasses in his hand and turning them on a tablet.” 2 In these short descriptions, Vasari draws our attention to the lively and elegant mathematical themes and activities in the fresco’s foreground.