|Artist||Leonardo da Vinci|
|Type||Pen and ink with wash over metalpoint
|Dimensions||34.4 cm × 25.5 cm (13.5 in × 10.0 in)|
The Vitruvian Man is a drawing created by Leonardo da Vinci circa 1490. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. It is stored in Venice, Italy, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Gabinetto dei disegni e stampe, as catalog number 228, and, like most works on paper, is displayed only occasionally.
The drawing is based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise De Architectura. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the Classical orders of architecture. Vitruvius determined that the ideal body should be eight heads high. Leonardo's drawing is traditionally named in honor of the architect.
Subject and title
This image exemplifies the blend of art and science during the Renaissance and provides the perfect example of Leonardo's keen interest in proportion. In addition, this picture represents a cornerstone of Leonardo's attempts to relate man to nature. Encyclopaedia Britannica online states, "Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe."
According to Leonardo's preview in the accompanying text, written in mirror writing, it was made as a study of the proportions of the (male) human body as described in Vitruvius. The text is in two parts, above[a] and below[b] the image.
The first paragraph of the upper part reports Vitruvius: "Vetruvio, architect, puts in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are in nature distributed in this manner, that is:
- a palm is four fingers
- a foot is four palms
- a cubit is six palms
- four cubits make a man
- a pace is four cubits
- a man is 24 palms
and these measurements are in his buildings". 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
- from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of a man
- from below the chin to the top of the head is one-eighth of the height of a man
- from above the chest to the top of the head is one-sixth of the height of a man
- from above the chest to the hairline is one-seventh of the height of a man.
- the maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of the height of a man.
- from the breasts to the top of the head is a quarter of the height of a man.
- the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man.
- the distance from the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of the height of a man.
- the length of the hand is one-tenth of the height of a man.
- the root of the penis is at half the height of a man.
- the foot is one-seventh of the height of a man.
- from below the foot to below the knee is a quarter of the height of a man.
- from below the knee to the root of the penis is a quarter of the height of a man.
- the distances from below the chin to the nose and the eyebrows and the hairline are equal to the ears and to one-third of the face.
The points determining these proportions are marked with lines on the drawing. Below the drawing itself is a single line equal to a side of the square and divided into four cubits, of which the outer two are divided into six palms each, two of which have the mirror-text annotation "palmi"; the outermost two palms are divided into four fingers each, and are each annotated "diti".
Leonardo is clearly illustrating Vitruvius' De architectura 3.1.2-3 which reads:
For the human body is so designed by nature that the face, from the chin to the top of the forehead and the lowest roots of the hair, is a tenth part of the whole height; the open hand from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger is just the same; the head from the chin to the crown is an eighth, and with the neck and shoulder from the top of the breast to the lowest roots of the hair is a sixth; from the middle of the breast to the summit of the crown is a fourth. If we take the height of the face itself, the distance from the bottom of the chin to the under side of the nostrils is one third of it; the nose from the under side of the nostrils to a line between the eyebrows is the same; from there to the lowest roots of the hair is also a third, comprising the forehead. The length of the foot is one sixth of the height of the body; of the forearm, one fourth; and the breadth of the breast is also one fourth. The other members, too, have their own symmetrical proportions, and it was by employing them that the famous painters and sculptors of antiquity attained to great and endless renown.
Similarly, in the members of a temple there ought to be the greatest harmony in the symmetrical relations of the different parts to the general magnitude of the whole. Then again, 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 centred at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. 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, as in the case of plane surfaces which are perfectly square.
Leonardo's drawing combines a careful reading of the ancient text with his own observation of actual human bodies. In drawing the circle and square he correctly observes that the square cannot have the same centre as the circle, the navel, but is somewhat lower in the anatomy. This adjustment is the innovative part of Leonardo's drawing and what distinguishes it from earlier illustrations. He also departs from Vitruvius by drawing the arms raised to a position in which the fingertips are level with the top of the head, rather than Vitruvius's much lower angle, in which the arms form lines passing through the navel.
It may be noticed by examining the drawing that the combination of arm and leg positions actually creates sixteen different poses. The pose with the arms straight out and the feet together is seen to be inscribed in the superimposed square. On the other hand, the "spread-eagle" pose is seen to be inscribed in the superimposed circle.
The drawing was purchased from Gaudenzio de' Pagave by Giuseppe Bossi, who described, discussed and illustrated it in his monograph on Leonardo's The Last Supper, Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci libri quattro (1810). The following year he excerpted the section of his monograph concerned with the Vitruvian Man and published it as Delle opinioni di Leonardo da Vinci intorno alla simmetria de'Corpi Umani (1811), with a dedication to his friend Antonio Canova.
After Bossi's death in 1815 the Vitruvian Man was acquired, along with the bulk of his drawings, by the Accademia.
Evidence of collaboration
Evidence has been found that Leonardo might have been influenced by the work of Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, a Renaissance architect, expert on Vitruvius, and close friend of his. Giacomo Andrea's original drawing has only one set of arms and legs while Leonardo's has the position of his man's arms and legs change.
Another possible influence for Leonardo's depiction could have been the codex depictions of human proportions in architecture by Francesco di Giorgio, a Sienese architect who compiled an unpublished Trattato di Architettura Civile e Militare in 1470.
|Figures from Trattato of Francesco di Giorgio|
Medical origins and context
In 2011 researchers at Imperial College London analyzed the drawing to identify that the image demonstrates that the subject has a likely groin disorder (left sided inguinal hernia). This is a common condition typically treated by surgery in the modern-era, but may also reflect that Leonardo da Vinci may have based the Vitruvian Man on a cadaver who may have died from this condition.
The Vitruvian Man has inspired a number of derivative works:
- Cesare Cesariano (1521) who edited the important 1521 edition of De Archtectura of Vitruvius (Leonardo da Vinci is supposed to have provided the illustrations for this edition).
- Albrecht Dürer (1528) in his book Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion (four books on human proportions)
- Pietro di Giacomo Cataneo (1554)
- Heinrich Lautensack (1618)
- William Blake (1795) "Glad Day", now known as "Albion rose". This representation is without the circle and square.
- The Italian 1 euro coin
- Above the image:
Vetruvio, architecto, mecte nella sua op(er)a d'architectura, chelle misure dell'omo sono dalla natura
disstribuite inquessto modo cioè che 4 diti fa 1 palmo, et 4 palmi fa 1 pie, 6 palmi fa un chubito, 4
cubiti fa 1 homo, he 4 chubiti fa 1 passo, he 24 palmi fa 1 homo ecqueste misure son ne' sua edifiti.
Settu ap(r)i ta(n)to le ga(m)be chettu chali da chapo 1/14 di tua altez(z)a e ap(r)i e alza tanto le b(r)acia che cholle lunge dita tu tochi la linia della
somita del chapo, sappi che 'l cie(n)tro delle stremita delle
ap(er)te me(m)bra fia il bellicho. Ello spatio chessi truova infralle ga(m)be fia tria(n)golo equilatero
- Below the image:
Tanto ap(r)e l'omo nele b(r)accia, qua(n)to ella sua alteza.
Dal nasscimento de chapegli al fine di sotto del mento è il decimo dell'altez(z)a del(l)'uomo. Dal di socto del mento alla som(m)i-
tà del chapo he l'octavo dell'altez(z)a dell'omo. Dal di sop(r)a del pecto alla som(m)ità del chapo fia il sexto dell'omo. Dal di so-
p(r)a del pecto al nasscime(n)to de chapegli fia la sectima parte di tucto l'omo. Dalle tette al di sop(r)a del chapo fia
la quarta parte dell'omo. La mag(g)iore larg(h)ez(z)a delle spalli chontiene insè [la oct] la quarta parte dell'omo. Dal go-
mito alla punta della mano fia la quarta parte dell'omo, da esso gomito al termine della isspalla fia la octava
parte d'esso omo; tucta la mano fia la decima parte dell'omo. Il menb(r)o birile nasscie nel mez(z)o dell'omo. Il
piè fia la sectima parte dell'omo. Dal di socto del piè al di socto del ginochio fia la quarta parte dell'omo.
Dal di socto del ginochio al nasscime(n)to del memb(r)o fia la quarta parte dell'omo. Le parti chessi truovano infra
il me(n)to e 'l naso e 'l nasscime(n)to de chapegli e quel de cigli ciasscuno spatio p(er)se essimile alloreche è 'l terzo del volto
- The Secret Language of the Renaissance - Richard Stemp
- "The Vitruvian man". Leonardodavinci.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "Da Vinci's Code". Witcombe.sbc.edu. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "Ten Books on Architecture. Book III, Chapter I, "On Symmetry: In Temples And In The Human Body"". Gutenberg.org. 2006-12-31. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "The Vitruvian Man and the squaring of the circle detailed". Arthistory.about.com. 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "Bibliographic reference". The Whole Universe Book. Retrieved 2011-11-30.
- Bossi, Giuseppe (1810)Del Cenacolo di Leonardo da Vinci libri quattro (in Italian) Milano: Stamperia Reale p.208ff
- "Bibliographic reference". Ursusbooks.com. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "Bibliographical notice, no. 319". Lib.rochester.edu. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
- "The Other Vitruvian Man". Smithsonian Magazine. 2012-02-01.
- "Did Leonardo da Vinci copy his famous 'Vitruvian Man'?". 2012-01-31.
- Ashrafian, Hutan. (2011). "Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man: a renaissance for inguinal hernias". Hernia 15: 593–594. doi:10.1007/s10029-011-0845-6.
- Lester, Toby (2012). Da Vinci's Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image. New York: Free Press. ISBN 9781439189238.
|Look up Vitruvian Man in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Vitruvian Man.|
- Willamette University site on Vitruvian man
- Stanford University site on Vitruvian man
- Leonardo's Vitruvian Man
- Vitruvian Man Video
- Contemporary interpretation of Vitruvian Man
- Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, exhibition catalog fully online as PDF from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on Vitruvian Man (see index)