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.
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?