The Vitruvian Man

You have seen it over and over again, wondered what it represented, why it had an almost cult-like following. You never knew what its name was, and never really bothered to learn more about it. The Vitruvian Man is one of the most famous works of Leonardo Da Vinci. The drawing, which is accompanied with some notes, were a part of his journal, and was made around the year 1487. The drawing and the notes are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions, or the Proportions of Man.

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect and engineer, wrote in Book III of his collection of works, De Architectura, that there were some correlations between human figures and geometry. Several artists before Da Vinci tried to realize the conception, but none were as successful. The drawing, consisting of a nude male figure in two superimposed figure, one with arms and legs spread, inscribed in a circle and a square. Also, an equilateral triangle is formed if one draws a line through the legs of the man till his pubis, and joins the tip of his feet. Always secretive about his work, Leonardo wrote the accompanying explanations and remarks in the “Mirror” writing technique Dan Brown spoke of in The Da Vinci Code.

The drawing is interpreted by the common man in several different ways. Some believe it has something to do with health, since it shows a “perfectly balanced man”. Many believe it shows the belief amongst the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci during the Renaissance era that there was a relation between mankind and science. They believed that man “is the measure of all things.” Search over the internet for architectural drawings of Francesco di Giorgio that actually show architectural plans having been made in perfect proportion with that of a human body.

The uniqueness of this particular piece of work of Leonardo Da Vinci is the fact that one can spend hours just looking at it, like most of his artwork, despite the fact that it was meant for him alone and was never drawn onto the canvas. It is, after all, a work of science, and only became a work of art because of how compelling the implications of the drawing are. You can stare all you want at Mona Lisa’s smile, but the Vitruvian Man holds more information in it than any other. One can even argue using this drawing if Leonardo Da Vinci’s work in science is as important as that of Newton or Einstein. After all, even half a millennium after it was drawn, the Vitruvian Man still attracts the attention of experts and common people alike.

Raveesh Bhalla

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