Vitruvian Man: The Amazing Proportions of Our Body

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The name of this drawing is Vitruvian Man. Leonardo da Vinci created this drawing around 1490 to illustrate the work of great architect known as Vitruvius. Actually, it’s a drawing of a man based on the proportions by the architect Vitruvius. Therefore the drawing is known as ‘Vitruvian Man’.

Size

Dimensions of the drawing are 35 cm x 26 cm

How It’s Drawn

Vitruvian Man is drawn using pen and ink on paper. On looking closely it seems like the drawing is engraved on paper using some unknown technique.

Forever in Venice

It is kept in the Accademia Gallery in Venice, Italy, under reference 228. displayed to the public only occasionally.


Depiction of the Vitruvian Man

The work depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. This complete drawing is also called the Canon of Proportions or Proportions of Man.

This image demonstrates the blend of mathematics and art during the Renaissance and demonstrates Leonardo’s deep understanding of proportions. Vitruvian Man is the cornerstone of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature.

Significance of Vitruvian Man

Have a look at the picture you will see a paragraph at the top and one at the bottom. These notes are written by da Vinci in mirror writing. These notes are originally the work of the architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De architectura.

Understanding Above Part

The first paragraph of the upper part reports: “Vetruvio, architect, puts in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are in nature distributed in this manner, that is:

  • Four fingers make up a Palm.
  • Four palms are equal to a foot.
  • Six Palms are equal to a forearm (approx Cubit).
  • Four cubits are equal to the height of a man.
  • The height of a man is equal to 24 palms.
  • An ideal body should be eight heads high.(fig V6)

Understanding Below Part

The second paragraph reads: “If you open your legs enough that your head is lowered by one-fourteenth of your height and raise your hands enough that your extended fingers touch the line of the top of your head, know that the centre of the extended limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle”. The lower section of text gives these proportions:

  • The length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man (fig V7)
  • From the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of a man. (fig V8)
  • From the chest line to the top of the head is one-fourth of the height of a man. (fig V9)
  • From the throat line to the hairline is one-seventh of the height of a man. (fig V10)
  • The maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of the height of a man. (fig V11)
  • The distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man. (fig V12)
  • The distance from the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of the height of a man.(fig V13)
  • The root of the penis is at half the height of a man.(fig V14)
  • The foot is nearly one-seventh of the height of a man.(fig V15)
  • From below the foot to below the knee is a quarter of the height of a man.(fig V16)
  • From below the knee to the root of the penis is a quarter of the height of a man.(fig V17)
  • The distances from below the chin to the bottom of the nose and the distance between eyebrows and the hairline are equal. Each of these is also equal to the height of the ears and to one-third of the face. (fig V18)

Recommended Readings-

The Last Supper
The Golden Ratio
Fibonacci in Plants
Vesica Piscis


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