Sacred Shapes: The Vitruvian Man

Last Updated on June 2, 2020 by

The pen and ink drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, depicting a man fitting his body to a circle and a square by adjusting the position of his arms and legs, is probably the most famous drawing in the world.  However, few people know its name or the secrets that it contains. It is called Vitruvian Man.  According to Pythagorian tradition, the circle represents the spiritual realm; the square, material existence, so the human body represented the perfect marriage of matter and spirit, which was is reflected in its proportions.

The ancient Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius believed that builders should always use precise ratios when constructing temples. “For without symmetry and proportion no temple can have a regular plan.”

The proportion Vitruvius recommended was modeled after the human body. He observed that all human beings are shaped according to a ratio that is astonishingly precise and uniform. For example, Vitruvius found that the human face equals one tenth of the total body height. The foot equals one sixth of the total body height. And so on.

Leonardo was one of many artists who attempted to depict Vitruvius’ perfect man, and the only one who succeeded; his version is considered the most accurate depictions of the human body.  The image exemplifies the blend of art and science during the Renaissance and provides the perfect example of Leonardo’s keen interest in proportion as well as medicine.

The Vitruvian Man is now used as a contemporary symbol of medical professionals and medical establishments. Many medical companies have adopted this artwork as their symbol of their group, company and or organization.  The Vitruvian Man has frequently been used as a symbol in fictional and non-fictional media, for various purposes. The image appears on the national side of Italian 1 euro coins.

In his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, author Dan Brown used concepts of sacred geometry to weave a spell-binding tale about conspiracy and early Christianity.  Regardless of your faith, you are likely to find that sacred numbers and symbols play an important role.  Concepts of sacred geometry are expressed in the beliefs of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, and other formal religions.  Yes, the The Vitruvian Man shows up in the story.

It seems that the original design as explained by Vitruvius, contains many layers of geometry and symbolism that converge in one single image containing the proportions of the human body.  This idea of ‘reason’ governing ‘form’ was the fundamental theme of the Renaissance and is traceable in the best architecture and art in general.  It would not be odd if Leonardo had a close contact with scholars that spread the source of the Renaissance thought which held onto the link between art, science, and magick.

Myths about the proportions within The Vitruvian Man seem to endure largely because the idea of a mathematical object with aesthetic powers is too alluring to resist.  Whether it has this real power at all we do not know for sure, but the very same proportions show up time and time again in all manner of workmanship from the layout of city streets to the hight and width ratios of the faces in famous paintings.

Leonardo’s genius knew no bounds and he excelled in the fields of both art and science. He died at the age of 67 in the arms of the King of France.

You can watch the algorithm working by visiting this link:

” From the roots of his hair to the bottom

of his chin is a tenth of a man’s height; from

the bottom of the chin to the top of the head

is one eighth of his height; from the top of the

breast to the roots of the hair will be the

seventh part of the whole man. ”

~ From The Notebooks of Leonardo

And some material referenced from:

Robert M. Place