Vitruvian Man


Read here about the drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci based on Vitruvius's ideas of human-centered measurement and proportion. The concept expresses our human scale and its relationship to other scales.

The Drawing

Vitruvian Man is the name of a drawing created by Leonardo da Vinci around the year 1487. The drawing is accompanied by notes describing how Da Vinci derived the drawing from a text by the ancient Greek architect, Vitruvius. The drawing, rendered by 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 is stored in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, Italy, and, like most works on paper, is displayed only occasionally.

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.

Vitruvian_Man_by_Leonardo_Da_Vinci_small.pngDa Vinci, Leonardo
Vitruvian Man by Leonardo DaVinci, drawing on paper. Reproduction, public domain image.

Other names

Vitruvian Man is also known as the Canon of Proportions and Proportions of Man.

Proportional Scale

At the foot of the drawing, Leonardo drew the proportional scale that he used to render the various body parts.

Vitruvian_Man_Bottom_Line_by_Leonardo_Da_Vinci.png
Proportional Scale at the foot of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing.


List of units

Here is the list as distilled by Leonardo Da Vinci, in order to create his rendering of Vitruvian Man:
  • a palm is the width of four fingers
  • a foot is the width of four palms
  • a cubit is the width of six palms
  • a pace is four cubits
  • a man's height is four cubits (and thus 24 palms)
  • "erit eaque mensura ad manas pansas" (Literally: "It will be the same in measure to the spread out hands.")
  • the length of a man's outspread arms (arm span) is equal to his height
  • the distance from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of a man's height
  • the distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin is one-eighth of a man's height
  • the distance from the bottom of the neck to the hairline is one-sixth of a man's height
  • the maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of a man's height (one cubit)
  • the distance from the middle of the chest to the top of the head is a quarter of a man's height (one cubit)
  • the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of a man's height (one cubit)
  • the distance from the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of a man's height (half a cubit)
  • the length of the hand is one-tenth of a man's height
  • the distance from the bottom of the chin to the nose is one-third of the length of the head
  • the distance from the hairline to the eyebrows is one-third of the length of the face
  • the length of the ear is one-third of the length of the face
  • the length of a man's foot is one-sixth of his height

Links


See Da Vinci, Vitruvius.

Other pages on the human scale: