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Building a Virtual Renaissance Library: Julius II’s Stanza della Segnatura

Project Details

Project Year: 2019-2020

Project Type: Collaboratory


Lisa Pon, Art History

Innovation Scholars

Matts Borges, Interactive Entertainment; Specialization in Computer Programming
Kristijana St. Clair, Cinematic Arts; Communication
Sabrina Stamnes, Cinema and Media Studies; Performance Science (minor)
Liam Tsao, History
Ashley Zhang, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics

Outside Advisors

Andreas Kratky, Associate Professor of Cinematic Arts, USC
Tracy Cosgriff, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, The College of Wooster
Melinda Hayes, Rare Books Librarian, USC Libraries
Suzanne Noruschat, Southern California Studies Specialist, Special Collections, USC Libraries

Special Guests

Joseph Monteyne, Associate Professor of Art History, Visual Art & Theory, University of British Columbia
Carolyn Yerkes, Assistant Professor of Art and Archeology, Princeton University

The Collaboratory

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Julius II (b. 1443-d. 1513) was known as the “Warrior Pope,” who told Michelangelo to depict him with sword rather than book in hand. Yet Julius also built his own library, specially housed in the Vatican Palace room, now known as the Stanza della Segnatura, that he had painted by Raphael. The main frescoes depict gatherings of great polymaths from Greek antiquity to the Julius’ time, from Homer and Plato to Gregory the Great and Raphael himself. The frescoes' themes—Philosophy, Poetry, Theology, and Jurisprudence—pictorially synthesize relationships between these four major disciplines from the period. Julius owned books in all these disciplines, and some of his manuscripts survive today.

Students in this Collaboratory reconstructed a digital version of the “Julian Library.” In doing so, they analyzed Renaissance books in USC Libraries' Special Collections; researched the paintings, the collected manuscripts and their authors; and considered Renaissance linear perspective in connection to today’s digital constructs.

The Outcomes 

Terraforming Mars Collaboratory
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Students in this Collaboratory created an interactive virtual environment that allows viewers to explore the Stanza della Segnatura, its vivid frescoes by Raphael, and passages from a Renaissance book by Giorgio Vasari describing the room as it appeared in Julius’ time. Viewers can read relevant passages from Vasari’s text while being directed, in the virtual Stanza della Segnatura, to the frescoes and figures he references. Lines across the room connect the figures in the order in which they appear in Vasari’s text and each is accompanied by a historical annotation researched and written by students in the collaboratory. See the Stanza Della Segnatura Virtual Experience here.