Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci’s man in a circle is reproduced everywhere. What does it mean?
He was simply following Vitruvius’s measurements of good proportion.
And who was Vitruvius?
A Roman architect who lived at the time of Augustus (and Christ). He wrote a treatise on architecture that Renaissance artists considered almost a Bible. Great artists like Leonardo and Michelangelo never seemed to question his rules.
In a chapter called Symmetry, Vitruvius writes:
“…in the human body the central point is naturally the navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described from it.
“And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to the outstretched arms, the breadth will be found to be the same as the height…..”

Leonardo drew an accurate and beautiful illustration. Here is another by Albrecht Dürer, following the same instructions.

(Click twice on thumbnail to enlarge) Dürer ’s Vitruvian man

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This entry was posted in aesthetics, architecture, art, art history, Beauty, Dürer, drawing, great artists, nude, Renaissance and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Vitruvian Man

  1. Ujwala says:

    somebody has reblogged this post at http://drawing.unix-fu.org/ stumbled across it as it has one of mine too :( with a mistyped link back to the original post

  2. 100swallows says:

    I don’t understand what those re-bloggers are out for–do you, Ujwala?

  3. wpm1955 says:

    Well, I’m reading this in the morning before school. I feel inspired to go and measure some of my third-graders today…all of us might find this quite interesting!

    Madame Monet
    Wrting, Painting, Music, and Wine
    winewriter.wordpress.com

  4. 100swallows says:

    Measure the little things if you can make them hold still, Madame Monet. Don’t kids have short legs? Remember that the navel is the center of an adult figure only if you are scribing a circle that includes the outstretched arms. In a standing figure the middle is the pubis (a little higher than the crotch). I always found that one a good measurement to check in a drawing.

  5. wpm1955 says:

    OK, I measured about eight kids today, and here’s what I found out. About four of them were spot-on. The remainder were between 1-4 cm (1/2 inch to 2 inches) off. Several times the legs-to-head measurement was greater, and in only one case was the fingertip-to-fingertip measurement greater. And then when I looked at the child, he did have longer arms in proportion than most of the children.

    My conclusion is that this is a good general rule for everyone, and the ideal proportion an artist or sculptor should use. But in reality, there is much individual variation from this ideal, just like most people have one foot slightly larger than the other. An eye doctor pointed out to me once that most people actually have an eye SLIGHTLY higher than the other, which is why some people tilt their heads slightly. Even all of us, if we examine our two hands CAREFULLY find that they are NOT the same.

    This was an interesting exercise for me, and my kids found it really interesting, too. Thanks for telling us about this interesting book and proportion.

    Madame Monet

  6. Fabregas says:

    Not enough info

  7. 100swallows says:

    Fabregas: It is very hard to know how much info to include in one of these posts. I try to introduce people to the subject, make them curious. Wikipedia is as easy for them to access as my blog. I’m happy you wanted to know more.

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