Leonardo da Vinci and his Vitruvian Man


Leonardo da Vinci, one of the more prolific individuals of the Italian Renaissance, was a genius and way ahead of his time. He is considered a polymath, which in Greek translates to “having learned much,” and is defined as someone who is an expert in a broad range of different subjects. In Leonardo da Vinci’s case, he excelled in areas of arts and mathematics. A work of his that reflects his aptitude in both art and science would be his “Vitruvian Man.” The Vitruvian Man is drawn with pen on paper, and it mathematically defines the proportions of the human body, mostly relative to height. I’m sure you’ve heard that the length of your arms is supposed to be equal the length of your height. This is just one of the many “perfect” proportions that are defined in his work. Other proportions defined in his Vitruvian man include the length of your chin to your hairline is equal to one tenth of your height, and the length of your shoulders is one fourth of your height. While I was reading some of these, I couldn’t help but think of how much thought he must have put into this. All of these proportions are written in the writing above and below the picture. However it is written backwards, or in “mirror writing.” This was not uncommon for da Vinci as most of his notes were written this way. The motive behind this unique style of writing was to hide his ideas from the Roman Catholic Church, since da Vinci’s ideas often collided with them. Davinci was also left-handed and it was easier to write on the page from right left as writing the opposite caused his writing to smear.
I felt that this would be a good artwork to share since we’re learning about the Renaissance in class at the moment. I first stumbled upon this artwork indirectly, as a variation of it is presented in the artwork for the “Clayman” album by heavy metal band In Flames. After seeing it so many times, I finally did some research on what it actually was. I was instantly riveted by what I was reading and soon found myself comparing my proportions to Davinci’s ideal ones. I also found it rather impressive that this was created with ink and it appears to have no mistakes.

Vito Bellino

1. How do your proportions match up to Leonardo da Vinci’s defined ones?
2. How do you think his ideas may have influenced future artists?
3. Do you think his technique of mirror writing was a good strategy to hide his ideas?


12 thoughts on “Leonardo da Vinci and his Vitruvian Man

  1. I believe that this drawing is an excellent example of both science and art mixed together. It truly shows how intelligent da Vinci was. Though I have not actually measured my arms compared to my height, it seems like I along with a lot of other people match up pretty well with his thoughts. I think that him writing backwards was in some ways intelligent, however I feel that it would not take too long for someone to realize that what they saw as nonsense was actually real words and sentences just written backwards and would then be able to figure out what he was trying to say.

  2. I was curious and measured my arm span and it is the same as my height as accurately as I could measure by myself. I have always liked this drawing and to find out it is ink makes it even more impressive because there is mo fixing mistakes. He is an inspiration. How perfect his art is with such scientific reality. I am sure he was an influence to other artists. Based on his proportions others could be more realistic in their art without having to take all the time to figure it out themselves. I think the mirror writing was a good idea because at first glance no one would figure it out but it was easy enough for someone who really cared to research his work to get the message. So probably perfect to keep himself safe from the church and not lose his great discoveries for future generations of thinkers.

  3. I think his technique of mirror writing was a great strategy to hide his ideas. Not only is the strategy impressive, it’s also impressive that he was able to write that at all. This image is very famous and I’ve seen it dozens of times, but I was never aware of what it actually meant. I did know that the width from fingertip to fingertip with arms extended was the same as your height, but I had no idea about the other measurements. I couldn’t help but check the accuracy on myself. The chin to hairline measurement was about 2 inches of on my height, and the shoulder to shoulder measurement was 2 inches off as well, but in the opposite direction. Oh well.. I guess I am not mathematically proportionate after all.

  4. I do think Da Vinci influence other people for example he was the one who sketch the parachute then around 1780 someone put the parachute to work. I’ve also read that if it wasn’t for him the invention of scissor would have never been made. This is something we use daily in our life know. He also influence Raphael in his art work of ” lady with a unicorn ” something similar to the Art of Mona Lisa.

  5. As we have a learned and heard Leonardo Da Vinci is an incredible man! His discoveries are astonishing for his time period! The piece that you chose to show in your blog is what truly defines him I feel like. You see that piece of work and know that is da Vinci. I haven’t measured my arms compared to my body, but if I did I feel as they would be the same or close to it! I found it fascinating that he was able to write backwards! I do believe at that time it was a good idea for him to write this way! If he felt others would steal his ideas or against the Roman Catholic Church he had a good explaintiin for trying to hide his findings.

  6. I have seen this drawing many times but never really knew what it meant.. After reading this blog I had to measure and it was fairly accurate. This was probably used as a tool for other artists who wanted to draw people proportionately.

  7. I remember doing this a while back in school and found some of his measurements to be exact. I can’t believe he figured this out and had the perfect template to draw people that long ago. His body of work is amazing. He laid the groundwork for the future of artists with these exact proportions that he figured out so that they could draw bodies more accurately. The mirror writing is a pretty incredible way to hide your writing from someone if they don’t expect it.

  8. I have always seen this drawing and knew what it was but never paid any attention to the measurements and proportions, but today when I measured the width of my shoulders and compared it to my height, it was very close to being 1/4 of my height. The small error could have been in my measuring technique, but i was amazed by how close it was. I think Leonardo’s ideas may have helped artists during his time and artists that followed him create realistic bodies because Renaissance artists focused a lot on physically perfect bodies and Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man provided mathematical proportions for other artists to follow.

  9. I think the proportions must of helped him and many other artists portray the body very actuartely in thier work thanks to this piece and the defining of body proportions. I would be curious how close my body proportions were to the ideal he created. I think the mirror writing is a good way to throw people off, at least for a little bit, and as a lefty I could see how it would be a better way of writing to avoid smearing.

  10. 1. How do your proportions match up to Leonardo da Vinci’s defined ones?
    Quite well…? I’m joking, I really don’t know, very well but hence it made a ‘revolution’ I think it should be quite well.
    2. How do you think his ideas may have influenced future artists?
    It influencced other artists that art can be something you learn from , even using mathematical “formulas” or geometrical shapes..

  11. Like other people have said, Leonardo was way ahead of his time. No wonder people called him the Renaissance man. Of course I would like to believe his ideas and works were of great influence to artists and non artists in his time period but also in the years after him, even now people are still amazed by his works. Also the mirror writing I think is pure genius, something not many people would think of. It be cool to write backward like that myself.

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