Philosophy is one of a series of five copies of famous Italian frescoes commissioned from Mengs and other artists by the Earl of Northumberland in 1752 to hang in the long gallery in Northumberland House (for the other four see C.M. Kauffmann, Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, vol I, London, 1973, pp. 189-90). When Northumberland House was demolished in 1874, the painting was moved and eventually gifted to the V&A in 1926. Raphael's fresco of Philosophy, known as the School of Athens, was executed between 1508-1511 and fills a lunette in the Stanza della Segnatura in the papal apartments in the Vatican. In order to adapt this enormous painting to a rectangular format without diminishing the size of the figures, Mengs has truncated and compressed the architectural elements and sculptural forms at the top, while inserting additional figures at the side. Where the original fresco is disturbed (on the left) by the top of a door, Mengs has inserted a plinth bearing his signature, the title and date, while repositioning the painted reliefs to suit this addition.