The Vitruvian Man , by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 – 1519) , is a work that portrays the perfection of proportions , balance and beauty of the human body. It is a Renaissance work, created in 1490. It is currently one of the best known works in the world.
What does the image of the Vitruvian man mean?
The drawing brings the figure of a naked man to the center, with arms and legs open, in different positions and in a symmetrical way. All this illustrates the proportions existing in the human body.
The illustrated man is simultaneously inside a circle and a square. The man’s navel marks the center of the circle while his genitals mark the center of the square.
Accompanying the illustration is a text that, together with the drawing, is considered the Canon of Proportions.
The technique used by Da Vinci was pencil and ink on paper and has dimensions of 34 by 24 cm.
Origin of the Vitruvian Man
Da Vinci’s creation is based on the work De Architectura , by architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio the Vitruvius. The text that the artist used as a basis was as follows:
“A span is the length of four fingers
A foot is the length of four palms
A cubit is the length of six palms
One step is four cubits
The height of a man is four cubits
The length of a man’s open arms (arm span) is equal to his height
The distance between the hairline on the forehead and the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of a man’s height.
The distance between the top of the head and the bottom of the chin is one-eighth the height of a man.
The distance between the bottom of the neck and the hairline on the forehead is one-sixth the height of a man.
Maximum shoulder length is one-quarter the height of a man
The distance between the middle of the chest and the top of the head is one-quarter the height of a man.
The distance between the elbow and the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man
The distance between the elbow and armpit is one-eighth the height of a man
The length of the hand is one-tenth the height of a man
The distance between the bottom of the chin and the nose is one third of the length of the face
The distance between the hairline on the forehead and the eyebrows is one third of the length of the face
The length of the ear is one-third that of the face
The length of the foot is one-sixth of the height.”
In this way, Da Vinci managed to perfectly represent all the proportions sketched by Vitruvius. With the union of studies in mathematics, architecture and philosophy, Da Vinci managed to achieve perfection in design.
Philosophical and mathematical meaning
The Vitruvian Man is the work that represents the anthropocentrist philosophical movement , very much stuck in the Renaissance, where the human being became the center of the world, different from the theocentrism that reigned in past times, where God was the center.
Also, the Vitruvian Man is considered a mathematical algorithm. Therefore, the total area of the circle is equivalent to the area of the square (squaring the circle).
Artists such as Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Albrecht Dürer, Cesare Cesariano, Walther Hermann Ryff and Robert Fludd also tried to make the same reproduction made by Da Vinci, based on Vitruvius’ description.
The original image of the Vitruvian Man is currently on display in Italy at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.