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Story of jealousy & “School of athens”

Updated: Feb 13

Saturday night, an hour past midnight. I have spent my Saturday evening at home after a long unplanned nap in the evening. Needed a recharge after my long week. I had very honest, raw & friendly conversations with 3 people tonight. All those text-conversations left a mark. All of them have something in common, which I will explain in further paragraphs. Been listening to music of Joep Beving and Tory Lanez tonight. Check them out, they might go well with your evening read. 

Earlier today I had a long conversation with a friend, who I also call a mentor sometimes. Due to his humility, he does not accept that title. Furthermore, underlines that it works both ways, he seems like a person who embodies “Life long learning” as a philosophy. Seriously, he never stops, which I find astonishing. During our conversation today, which started from “Baku way” of handling errands, human interactions, social conventions, intertwining relationships, history, utopia of democracy & philosophy. The last one in fact, triggered this article. We both have done our fair share of reading Greek philosophers, however I gave up on it quicker than he did. Nonetheless, both of us for the same reason. Instead of trying to reason in my own way, I will quote my friend, Christos. Yet, again I am giving fictional names to my friends to protect their privacy & enrich my story with the meanings of the names I pick. You have seen names like Ethan, Seth, Allan and Junia before. None of those handpicked names are a coincidence, their meanings sometimes are part of their character or the story. Another reason why I change the names is that, I do not like censorship. With fictional names it is frictionless for me.

This is what Christos had to say about Greek philosophy “If you have not delved into golden period of greek thinking yet, you will definitely love it.. I find reading writings/resources of that time line by line slightly boring, but getting main ideas and then looking at them in historical context and comparing to well documented track record of humankind since then, is eye opening.. especially in “west” not a single new significant thought had been added into the bucket of ideas those giants had put forward 2000-2300 years ago.. they have been fantastic..” 

Now you may understand one of the reasons why I like Christos, his sheer processing power of knowledge and information. Of course, that is not the main thing, it is part of him which makes him exceptional. He applies same compartmentalizing of knowledge and data, even to my stories about generic things & day to day problems. 

This what I feel towards people I am friends with and admire. No matter who I am friends with or communicating with, on stand-by or active modes, I look for things I like, admire, respect or love in their way of thinking, vocalizing and behaving. Believe it or not, and everything in between. Sometimes, it is an exact feature of how they present themselves, respect others, talk to staff at a restaurant and even whether or not they make an eye contact when they shake someone’s hand who is standing next to me.

I rarely post stories on Instagram in Azerbaijani. The other day I posted about one of the words I like the most – Qibtə. If you try to translate it to English, sources will tell you that it means Envy or Jealousy. However, it is not. The direct translation of Jealousy/Envy to Azerbaijani is something completely different. I do not even want to write it here because the word by itself is as ill-favored as the feeling that it describes. The Azerbaijani word for jealousy even sounds itchy when pronounced. 

I detest that feeling, that sensation, that forgotten word & anyone who embodies that feeling of Envy & Jealousy. Qibtə, on the other hand means something very healthy, naive & harmless. In fact, with the right tweaks of actions to be followed by. This feeling, can take you to amazing places in life. 

Many of you are religious, most you believe in the Creator & all of you believe in some existence of divine power. This will be the first time I will be quoting the Holy Book of Qur’an. “Jealousy (Hasad) is disease of soul” 

“I seek refuge in the Lord of daybreak, from the evil of that which He created, and from the evil of darkness when it settles, and from the evil of the blowers in knots, and from the evil of an envier when he envies.”

Jealousy also gives birth to so many other sins, like “back backbiting (Ghibat) and accusation (Tohmat)”. If a jealous person cannot do anything to harm that person with whom he is jealous of, then he tries to talk about him at the back, usually with the intentions to spoil his image.

With the risk that I took of making this article longer than it should have been, I will finalize my point about Qibtə. It means wishful thinking about someone else’s achievements, talents, happiness, state of mind, confidence or anything else that comes with a price. Non materialistic or materialistic. What differentiates it from jealousy is the action it proceeds by. Qibtə makes you want to do something about it, so that you would have that trait too. Jealousy hides behind those hateful & sinful eyes.

Whenever I see something I like in a person, I try to figure out “Would that trait make me better person, father, man, entepreneur etc?”. If not, I disregard it as something which could be good for me and accept the person in-front of me with that trait, which makes him/her stand out or unique.

I apply this philosophy practically to anyone with whom I converse with, with friends even more frequently. I learn from them & I feel privileged to be in their presence, because of all embodiments they have engraved to themselves. I feel lucky to be around them. This applies to Christos and other Noble people I conversed with, today.

Before my perception with feelings, people & experiences end, and philosophical window to history opens. I am offering my gratitude to Christos for introducing me to this amazing Fresco & planting a seed for this article. 

Christos mentioned the fresco called “School of athens” during an argument he was making and the rest is history…

Story of jealousy & School of athens

Long before Raphael the hotheaded, red-eye mask-wearing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle entertained children onscreen, there was Raphael the esteemed painter who’d won over a cultured crowd of art connoisseurs. By his mid-20s, Raphael Sanzio was already a star. At the top of his game, this master of the Italian Renaissance had been invited by the pope to live in Rome, where he would spend the rest of his days. Starting in 1509 he began decorating the first of four rooms in the Papal Palace. Collectively, these Raphael Rooms, along with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exemplify the High Renaissance fresco technique.

In particular, Raphael’s fresco The School of Athens has come to symbolize the marriage of art, philosophy, and science that was a hallmark of the Italian Renaissance. Painted between 1509 and 1511, it is located in the first of the four rooms designed by Raphael, the Stanza della Segnatura.

But just what does this famous painting mean? Let’s look at what the iconic The School of Athens meant for Raphael as an artist and how it’s become such a symbol of the Renaissance. At the time, a commission by the pope was the apex of any artist’s career. For Raphael, it was validation of an already burgeoning career.

Raphael was in Florence when he received word that Pope Julius II, the same man who asked Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Ceiling, asked him to decorate apartments on the second floor of the Vatican Palace. He was hoping to outshine the Early Renaissance paintings his predecessor, Pope Alexander VI, had done in the Borgia Apartments, which sat directly below. It could be seen as a bold choice, as a young Raphael had never executed fresco works as complex as the commission would require. At that point, he’d mainly been known for his small portraits and religious paintings on wood, in addition to a few altarpieces. Some believe that his friend Bramante, who was the architect of St. Peter’s, recommended him for the job. They’d both grown up in Urbino and knew each other well.

Raphael rose to the challenge, creating an extensive catalog of preparatory sketches for all his frescoes. These would later be blown up in full-scale cartoons to help transfer the design to the wet plaster. Working at the same time as Michelangelo, it’s thought that this helped push and inspire Raphael by stimulating his competitive nature.

Stanza della Segnatura and the Four Branches of Knowledge

Story of jealousy & School of athens

The School of Athens is one of four wall frescoes in the Stanza della Segnatura. Each wall represents one of the four branches of knowledge during the Renaissance—theology, literature, justice, and philosophy. The room was set to be Julius’ library, and therefore Raphael’s overall concept balances the contents of what would have been in the pope’s study.

In the 15th century, a tradition of decorating private libraries with portraits of great thinkers was common. Raphael took the idea to a whole new level with massive compositions that reflected the four branches. Read as a whole, they immediately transmitted the intellect of the pope and would have sparked discussion between cultured minds that were lucky enough to enter into this private space.

The School of Athens was the third painting Raphael completed after Disputa (representing theology) and Parnassus (representing literature). It’s positioned facing Disputa and symbolizes philosophy, setting up a contrast between religious and lay beliefs.

The School of Athens

Story of jealousy & School of athens

Set in an immense architectural illusion painted by Raphael, The School of Athens is a masterpiece that visually represents an intellectual concept. In one painting, Raphael used groupings of figures to lay out a complex lesson on the history of philosophy and the different beliefs that were developed by the great Greek philosophers.

Raphael certainly would have been privy to private showings of the Sistine Chapel in progress that were arranged by Bramante. Though Raphael’s work, in many ways, could be seen as more complex due to the number of figures placed in one scene, he certainly was influenced by the great artist’s work. This is particularly evident by the long figure thinking in the foreground, as we’ll soon see.

In fact, modern influence seeps in more frequently than one would think, particularly when it comes to the faces used for certain figures in The School of Athens. Let’s take a look, group by group, to pick apart the concept and see who appears in the famous fresco.

Who are the figures in The School of Athens?

Story of jealousy & School of athens

The two main figures in the work are placed directly under the archway and in the fresco’s vanishing point, a compositional trick to draw the viewer’s eye to the most important part of the painting. Here, we see two men who effectively represent the different schools of philosophy—Plato and Aristotle.

An elderly Plato stands at the left, pointing his finger to the sky. Beside him is his student Aristotle. In a display of superb foreshortening, Aristotle reaches his right arm directly out toward the viewer. Each man holds a copy of their books in their left hand—Timaeus for Plato and Nicomachean Ethics for Aristotle.

Plato’s gesture toward the sky is thought to indicate his Theory of Forms. This philosophy argues that the “real” world is not the physical one, but instead a spiritual realm of ideas filled with abstract concepts and ideas. The physical realm, for Plato, is merely the material, imperfect things we see and interact with on a daily basis. Interestingly, some people believe that Raphael used Leonardo da Vinci’s face for Plato, based on similarities from his self-portrait.

Conversely, Aristotle’s hand is a visual representation of his belief that knowledge comes from experience. Empiricism, as it is known, theorizes that humans must have concrete evidence to support their ideas and is very much grounded in the physical world.

Scholars argue that this divide in philosophies, placed at the center of The School of Athens, is the core theme of the painting.

So who is everyone else? It’s not always crystal clear, as Raphael doesn’t arm all his characters with attributes that give away their identity. Fortunately, there are quite a few that scholars can agree on.


Story of jealousy & School of athens

To the left of Plato, Socrates is recognizable thanks to his distinct features. It’s said that Raphael was able to use an ancient portrait bust of the philosopher as his guide. He’s also identified by his hand gesture, as pointed out by Giorgio Vasari in Lives of the Artists. “Even the Manner of Reasoning of Socrates is Express’d: he holds the Fore-finger of his left hand between that, and the Thumb of his Right, and seems as if he was saying You grant me This and This.”

Among the crowd surrounding Socrates are his students, including the general Alcibiades and Aeschines of Sphettus.


Story of jealousy & School of athens

In the foreground, Pythagoras sits with a book and an inkwell, also surrounded by students. Though Pythagoras is well known for his mathematical and scientific discoveries, he also firmly believed in metempsychosis. This philosophy states that every soul is immortal, and upon death, moves to a new physical body. In this light, it makes sense that he would be placed on Plato’s side of the fresco.


Story of jealousy & School of athens

Mirroring Pythagoras’ position on the other side, Euclid is bent over demonstrating something with a compass. His young students eagerly try to grasp the lessons he’s teaching them. The Greek mathematician is known as the father of geometry, and his love of concrete theorems with exact answers demonstrates why he represents Aristotle’s side of The School of Athens. Experts believe that Euclid is a portrait of Raphael’s friend Bramante.


Story of jealousy & School of athens

The great mathematician and astronomer Ptolemy is right next to Euclid, with his back to the viewer. Wearing a yellow robe, he holds a terrestrial globe in his hand. It’s thought that the bearded man standing in front of him holding a celestial globe is the astronomer Zoroaster. Interestingly, the young man standing next to Zoroaster, peaking out at the viewer, is none other than Raphael himself. Incorporating this type of self-portrait is not unheard of at the time, though it was a bold move for the artist to incorporate his likeness into a work of such intellectual complexity.

Story of jealousy & School of athens

This was not the only self portrait Raphael has done, here is another one.

This painting has been acknowledged as the self-portrait of Raphael as a young man, also based on the comparison between this work and the other self-portrait of the painter visible in the fresco depicting the School of Athens in the Room of the Segnatura in the Vatican, commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted between 1509 and 1511. Although painted using different techniques, in both portraits the artist portrays himself with an identical expression and features.

Story of jealousy & School of athens

I visited Rome & Florence during the same trip to Italy and I am saddened by the fact that I did not get a chance to have a look at this masterpiece. The identical face expressions of Raphael Sanzio, his duo sided character portrayals on the fresco & choice of symbolisms, show great traits of an artist, who is not just a standalone talent. He seemed more than that. 

It was tradition back then to mention the place of birth in the name, so Raphael’s full name was Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino. This means he was born in a village named “Urbino,” a walled city in the Marche region of Italy, southwest of Pesaro in the east of Italy.

Raphael was one of three great of his time, along with Michelangelo & Da Vinci. Unlike Da Vinci, Raphael was a workhorse. There was a huge rivalry in Rome back in those times. There is also a theory that, Raphael painted his rival on that fresco. By the time Raphael was finished with his work on the “Stanze,” Michelangelo found a way to accuse him of plagiarism, something he continued to do after his death.

It must have come as a shock, but Michelangelo recognized not only his style but also himself in the “School of Athens” painting, in which it’s believed that Michelangelo represents Heraclitus.

Story of jealousy & School of athens

As you can see, it wasn’t a very flattering depiction which was perhaps the main reason for the accusations.

What probably enraged Michelangelo further is that he depicted his other rival, Leonardo da Vinci, as one of the main characters, namely Plato. Raphael painted Plato with Da Vinci’s facial features. Get the irony? Rafaello or Raphael was being sarcastic & funny on ****ing fresco commissioned by the Pope! How genius & bold is that? 

Story of jealousy & School of athens

Final fact about Raphael is a very peculiar one. Some say he died from siphilis, some say he died from a virus & some say this;

According to Georgio Vasari, his biographer, Raphael died because he was so tired from all his work, and more importantly, from having too much sex with his mistress, La Fornarina. Whom he actually painted.

Story of jealousy & School of athens

Whether or not he was exhausted from never-ending lovemaking, we’ll never know for sure. What we do know is that he suddenly became ill at the age of 37 and was bedridden for 15 days. Raphael is believed to have been born in 1483 in Urbino on April 6th.

In his last 15 days of life, he was able to confess his sins, dictate his will, and receive his final rites. He died on Friday, April 6, 1520. One of the most peculiar facts about Raphael is that he died on Good Friday, which is also believed to have been his birthday. It was his 37th. 

This fact was evident to me as soon as I decided to write the last paragraph of this story. Whats more peculiar is the fact that, another great historical figure I wrote about recently, Walter Russel – was also born and deceased on the same day May 19th.

Thank you Rafaello Sanzio de Urbino for your masterpieces, the ironies & contributions!

Pura Vida!

Story of jealousy & School of athens



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