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Vitruvian Man

Leonardo da vinci

Da Vinci (1452 to 1519) was an Italian painter, engineer, inventor, draughtsman, architect, sculptor, and scientist. In fact, he was considered a polymath and a genius.

historical overview

Da Vinci sought to explore the connection between man and nature through his perfect marriage of mathematics and art. This was his goal and ultimately inherent in the Vitruvian Man symbolism.


The idea of human proportions starts with what is referred to as the Canon of Proportions, which can be traced all the way to Ancient Egyptian times.

who was vitruvius?

Vitruvius explored proportion in the human form, which inspired Leonardo da Vinci to draw what Vitruvius started. Vitruvius wrote that the proportions of the human figure were like that of a temple.

what da vinci did differently

He veered away from a direct copy of Vitruvius’s descriptions and drew the center of the navel in different positions in both the circle and the square; the square’s center was situated at the groin.

subject matter

Da Vinci drew a male figure, superimposed, standing in two different postures. The other posture shows his feet and arms in a spread-eagle posture, with this stance making the equilateral triangle.

subject matter

If we look at the man's face, we will notice a serious and quite intense stare forward and simultaneously neutral. It is believed this was a self-portrait by Da Vinci.

color, light & texture

We see shading in various parts of the Vitruvian physique and behind it on the piece of paper with the cross-hatching technique. We see the delicate shading work done under the eyes and around wrinkled areas.

perspective & scale

Even working with simple ink on paper, Da Vinci manages to create three-dimensionality with this Vitruvian physique. 

science and beauty envisioned

The Vitruvian Man drawing was found amongst Da Vinci’s other sketches and notebooks, and he probably did not draw this for the same purposes he painted, the latter being for public display.