RAFFAELLO Sanzio (b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Roma)
Prime Mover (ceiling panel) – 1509-11
Fresco, 120 x 105 cm
Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
The figure bending in a beautiful scorcio over the celestial globe is a masterly example of perspective. Philosophically, this figure can be seen as an allegory of the beginning of the universe, but it might also be an embodiment of the science of astronomy. The constellation on the globe can be calculated exactly: the night of 31 October 1503, the date that Julius II was elected pope.
The prime mover or unmoved mover is a philosophical concept described by Aristotle as a primary cause or “mover” of all the motion in the universe. As is implicit in the name, the “unmoved mover” moves other things, but is not itself moved by any prior action. In Book 12 (Greek “Λ”) of his Metaphysics, Aristotle describes the unmoved mover as being perfectly beautiful, indivisible, and contemplating only the perfect contemplation: itself contemplating.