Home Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci ->main page
Leonardo da Vinci paintings: Vitruvian Man
Text on the picture
Around "Vitruvian Man"
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da Vinci
Vitruvian Man

The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius
c. 1490-1492
Pen and ink with wash over metalpoint on paper
34.6 cm × 25.5 cm (13.6 in × 10.0 in)
Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

"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."
Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

The Vitruvian Man (Italian: Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio, which is translated to "The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius"), or simply L'Uomo Vitruviano, is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci around 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 man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and 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 kept in the Gabinetto dei disegni e stampe of the Gallerie dell'Accademia, in Venice, Italy, under reference 228. Like most works on paper, it is displayed to the public only occasionally.

 

Did you know that ...
LEONARDO NEVER INTENDED FOR VITRUVIAN MAN TO BE DISPLAYED
The sketch was discovered in one of the High Renaissance master's personal notebooks. The study was simply for the artist’s own edification, and when he completed it around 1490, he likely never expected it would be admired. Yet today Vitruvian Man is iconic and among the artist's best known works, along with The Last Supper and Mona Lisa.

 

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. Wikipedia.org

 
 

Text on the picture:
"Vetruvio architetto mette nelle sue opera d’architettura che le misure dell’omo…”

"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".

 
 

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius, in full Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (flourished 1st century bc) Roman architect, engineer, and author of the celebrated treatise De architectura (On Architecture), a handbook for Roman architects. Little is known of Vitruvius life, except what can be gathered from his writings, which are somewhat obscure on the subject. Although he nowhere identifies the emperor to whom his work is dedicated, it is likely that the first Augustus is meant and that the treatise was conceived after 27 bc. Since Vitruvius describes himself as an old man, it may be inferred that he was also active during the time of Julius Caesar. Vitruvius himself tells of a basilica he built at Fanum (now Fano). De architectura was based on his own experience, as well as on theoretical works by famous Greek architects such as Hermogenes. The treatise covers almost every aspect of architecture, but it is limited, since it is based primarily on Greek models, from which Roman architecture was soon decisively to depart in order to serve the new needs of proclaiming a world empire. De architectura is divided into 10 books dealing with city planning and architecture in general; building materials; temple construction and the use of the Greek orders; public buildings (theatres, baths); private buildings; floors and stucco decoration; hydraulics; clocks, mensuration, and astronomy; and civil and military engines. Vitruvius outlook is essentially Hellenistic. His wish was to preserve the classical tradition in the design of temples and public buildings, and his prefaces to the separate books of his treatise contain many pessimistic remarks about the contemporary architecture. Most of what Pliny says in his Natural History about Roman construction methods and wall painting was taken from Vitruvius, though unacknowledged. Vitruvius expressed desire that his name be honoured by posterity was realized. Throughout the antique revival of the Renaissance, the classical phase of the Baroque, and in the Neoclassical period, his work was the chief authority on ancient classical architecture.
Encyclopædia Britannica

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio
Marcus Vitruvius

Around "Vitruvian Man"
Leonardo da vinci facts

 

Did you know that ...

IT’S ART MEETS SCIENCE
A true Renaissance man, Leonardo was not only a painter, sculptor, and writer, but also an inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician and amateur anatomist. This pen and ink drawing was his exploration of the theories about human proportions set forth by ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. In his treatise De Architectura, Vitruvius wrote, "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 therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it."

LEONARDO WAS NOT THE FIRST TO ATTEMPT TO ILLUSTRATE VITRUVIUS’S THEORIES
American scholar Toby Lester explained to NPR in a 2012 interview, "Especially in the 15th century, in the decades leading up to Leonardo's own time in drawing, a number of people begin to try to render that idea in visual form."

IT MAY HAVE BEEN PART OF A COLLABORATION
In 2012, Italian architectural historian Claudio Sgarbi shared findings that he felt indicated Leonardo's study of proportion was sparked by a similar one done by his friend and fellow Vitruvius-enthusiast Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara, an architect of the time. There’s some debate about whether the pair worked in tandem, but even if this theory is incorrect, historians agree Leonardo perfected flaws in its execution where Giacomo failed, including the second set of arms and legs that allow for a more accurate depiction of Vitruvius’s writings.

THE CIRCLE AND THE SQUARE HAVE A GRANDER MEANING
In their mathematical explorations, Vitruvius and Leonardo were looking for not just the ratios of man but of all creation. In a notebook from 1492, Leonardo mused, "By the ancients man has been called the world in miniature; and certainly this name is well bestowed, because, inasmuch as man is composed of earth, water, air and fire, his body resembles that of the earth." In other words, man is a microcosm of the universe.

IT’S ONE OF A SERIES OF SKETCHES
To improve his art and better understand how the world around him worked, Leonardo drew many people, marking off how their proportions fell.

VITRUVIAN MAN IS THE MALE IDEAL
The identity of the model remains shrouded in mystery, but art historians believe Leonardo took some liberties in his drawing. This work was not a portrait as much as a diligent depiction of a perfect male form designed by math, not shaped by life.

IT COULD BE A SELF-PORTRAIT
Going off scant descriptions of the 15th century artist as a younger man, some art historians have suggested Leonardo himself is his Vitruvian Man model. As Lester told NPR: "He was described as being very finely built, strong, very beautiful with locks of hair that curled and went down to his shoulders. There are a couple of possible renderings of him, one that survives in a sculpture from Florence and another that's in a fresco from Milan, and they both look a bit like that figure as well," but he admitted there's no way to know "for sure." GO!

VITRUVIAN MAN HAD A HERNIA
That's the diagnosis that surgical lecturer Hutan Ashrafian made 521 years after the fact: An inguinal hernia. Ashrafian further theorized that such an issue could have killed this Vitruvian Man if Leonardo modeled the figure off of a cadaver, it was possibly the hernia that did him in.

YOU NEED THE SURROUNDING NOTES FOR THE FULL CONTEXTAs the sketch originally appeared in a notebook, Vitruvian Man sat surrounded by handwritten notes regarding its observations about human proportion. Translated to English, they read in part: "Vitruvius, the architect, says in his work on architecture that the measurements of the human body are distributed by Nature as follows that is that 4 fingers make 1 palm, and 4 palms make 1 foot, 6 palms make 1 cubit; 4 cubits make a man's height. And 4 cubits make one pace and 24 palms make a man; and these measures he used in his buildings. If you open your legs so much as to decrease your height 1/14 and spread and raise your arms till your middle fingers touch the level of the top of your head you must know that the centre of the outspread limbs will be in the navel and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle. The length of a man's outspread arms is equal to his height."

THE BODY IS STRIPED WITH MEASUREMENT LINES
Look at the man's chest, arms and face. Solid straight lines mark Leonardo's proportions, to which his notes refer. For instance, the ears/bottom of nose to the eyebrows make up a third of the face, while the bottom of the nose to the chin makes up the lowest third, and the eyebrows to the hairline make up the top.

IT HAS OTHER, LESS ESOTERIC NAMES
The sketch is also called Canon of Properties or Proportions of Man.

VITRUVIAN MAN STRIKES 16 POSES
At first glance, you might only see two: Standing feet together, arms outstretched and standing feet apart arms lifted. But part of the genius of Leonardo's depiction is that the superimposed body allows for views of 16 combinations of these outstretched limbs.

IT HAS BEEN CO-OPTED FOR A POLITICAL MESSAGE
Reconnecting to Vitruvian Man's relation of man and nature, large-scale artist John Quigley used the familiar image to illustrate the aggressiveness of global warming. Pictures of ice melting may not move mercury for many, but by constructing Melting Vitruvian Man on a massive ice floe, Quigley was able to give the issue a new scale. Quigley's copper strip sketch measures four times the size of an Olympic swimming pool.

THE ORIGINAL SKETCH IS RARELY SEEN IN PUBLIC
Recreations can be found far and wide, but the original is too fragile and important to be on permanent display. Vitruvian Man is typically kept under lock and key at the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice. An exhibition held in 2013 offered the first chance in 30 years to see Vitruvian Man. In its off time, the only way to view Leonardo's sensational sketch is to request special permission for a private session to the Office of Drawings and Prints.
Kristy Puchko

 
The popularity of this picture by Leonardo da Vinci can not be overestimated
Vitruvian Man
Cesare Cesariano, 1483-1543
Vitruvian Man-2
David Hewson
Vitruvian Man-3
Robert Fludd, 1617
Vitruvian Man-4
rahigh.org
Vitruvian Man-5
worth1000.com
Vitruvian Man-6
Jim Reynolds
Vitruvian Man-7

Gareth Southwell
Vitruvian Man-8
Vitruvian Homer
Leonardo da Vinci
Back to
Leonardo-main page
ABC-People Home Page
abc-people.com
Copyright © 2004 abc-people.com
Design and conception BeStudio © 2014-2023