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.