The Vitruvian Man is a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci around 1490. It is convoyed 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 overlaid positions with his arms and legs apart and etched in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or Proportions of Man.
The drawing is based on the associations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by Vitruvius. Vitruvius described the human figure as being the chief source of proportion among the Classical orders of architecture. Vitruvius determined that the ideal body should be eight heads high.
This image establishes the blend of art and science during the Renaissance and offers the perfect example of Leonardo’s deep understanding of proportion. This picture represents a foundation of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature.
According to Leonardo’s showing in the additional text, 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: “Vitruvius, 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 palmsand these measurements are in his buildings”. The second paragraph states: “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 center 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.