Philosophy, that is ideas about how the world works, using the power of thought and imagination, is hard to depict in painting and sculpture. However, the ideas of the great philosophers are so important and influential that their inspirational portraits have sat in homes and public buildings since ancient times. Raphael’s masterpiece The School of Athens, representing Philosophy, is a fresco in the Vatican.
Greek philosophers worked by argument and discussion; later depictions and portraits of philosophers and thinkers, on the other hand, usually show them deep in thought or studying ancient books. Confusingly, early scientists were called ‘natural philosophers’ or ‘experimental philosophers’, as portrayed in Joseph Wright of Derby’s dramatic A Philosopher Giving That Lecture on the Orrery… of 1764–1766.