The tableau re-enacting Raphael’s School of Athens by American University of Sharjah students. Image Credit: AUS

Dubai: In a feat of creativity, a group of students from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) re-enacted one of Renaissance Italy’s most famous artworks, Raphael’s School of Athens.

Led by a team of seven architecture students at the university, the re-enactment brought together 61 students, staff and faculty, all meticulously prepared to portray one of the many intellectual giants included in Raphael’s painting.

The much-visited original, which is placed in the Pope’s apartments of the Vatican, features a selection of history’s creative geniuses, with philosophers, poets, mathematicians, astronomers, physicians and architects, all depicted in the celebrated work.

A line-up of some of the most famous faces of the past are included in the masterpiece, with Alexander the Great, Socrates, and Aristotle all portrayed in detail. Leonardo da Vinci poses as Plato, and Michelangelo is absorbed in a drawing on the artwork’s majestic steps.

Each participant’s costume was carefully designed to match their counterpart in the painting, and participants were coached on how to correctly duplicate the pose of the person they had been selected to imitate.

Different parts of the grand architecture of the AUS campus were combined into a stunning backdrop for the work, with the AUS library atrium providing the impressive arch. The more time spent looking at the re-enactment, the more the level of attention and detail that has gone into the piece becomes obvious.

The tableau was photographed by student Aashish Rajesh as a sequence of images, which were then knitted together digitally along with the backdrop. Graduate Tasnim Tinawi built the final image from a 5GB file of Photoshop manipulations.

With participants in the ‘Redressing’ reflecting the diversity of cultures and religions at AUS, the work holds importance beyond being visually spectacular, said Dr Martin Giesen, Professor of Art History at AUS.

He believes one of the reasons for the success of the project lies in its relevance to contemporary UAE society.

“Redressing the Renaissance is a courageous and creative installation of seven students of American University of Sharjah who decided to pay tribute to and give artistic form to the vision of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to establish a distinctive institution, nurtured by history, responding to the aspirations of contemporary society in the UAE.”

The artwork is also a testament to the attention the university’s College of Architecture, Art and Design places on fostering innovation and creativity in its students.

“As architecture students with a keen interest in art history, we began analysing and reinterpreting the art we so admire,” architecture student Uthra Varghese said. “It started out as a pleasurable pastime which evolved into a more meaningful endeavour. As much as the re-enactments were about generating significant images, we realised that the process itself created a sense of community that was more substantial than the final result.”

The seven students who led the project are: Divya Mahadevan, Farah Monib, Zahra’a Nasralla, Uthra Varghese, Gopika Praveen, Tasnim Tinawi and Nabeela Zeitoun.