Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks: Vitruvian Man

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci

Commentary on Vitruvian Man

  1. Ambrose Mnemopolous Post author

    Leonardo da Vinci’s drawing of “Vitruvian Man” contains multiple meanings.

    The title is a reference to Vitruvius, the Roman architect, and in da Vinci’s notebooks, the drawing is accompanied by text summarizing Vitruvius’s writings on human proportion, and how human proportions should be incorporated into the design of buildings.

    “Vitruvian Man” means “Universal Man” in more than one sense. In De Architectura, Book I, Chapter I, Vitruvius spells out a detailed curriculum for the education of the architect, which includes astronomy, music, law, and geometry. Vitruvius and “Vitruvian Man” represent the ideal of the “Renaissance Man” of universal genius.

    In another sense, “Vitruvian Man” expresses the Neoplatonist worldview of harmony between human Microcosm and Cosmic Macrocosm. If a rectangle is drawn over “Vitruvian Man” equal to width of the head, extending downward to include the trunk and legs, that rectangle will be in the ratio of 3:11 — which is the relative diameter of Moon to Earth to about 99.9% accuracy. As drawn, the circle and the square are of equal perimeter to about 96% accuracy, essentially, “squaring the circle” as do Earth and Moon.

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452 to 1519) was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer.