A New Da Vinci Mystery: Did Leonardo Get Undue Credit For His Vitruvian Man?

Posted filed underArt History, Old Masters, Renaissance.


Considered the most famous drawing ever of the human body, Leondardo Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ was thought to have been the fruit of the Italian artist-scientist’s singular genius. But now a similar image that pre-dates Leonardo’s work has emerged.

Italian newspaper La Stampa has the story: “Extraordinary discoveries are sometimes a matter of millimeters — and years of research.

When the Italian architect Claudio Sgarbi set his ruler along a drawing of an obscure Renaissance manuscript, he was suddenly struck by what he found. He quickly compared it to a copy of the Latin author Vitruvius’ De Architectura (On Architecture), which featured a drawing of a man with arms wide apart, inscribed in a circle and a square. His navel was at the center of the circle, and his genitals were at center of the square.

“Among the several graphic interpretations of the human body’s proportions that were theorized by Vitruvius, we are aware of just one other with the same geometrical features,” Sgarbi says. “It is the one by Leonardo Da Vinci.”

For more than 30 years, Sgarbi – a historian of architecture – has studied the manuscript he discovered by chance in the Ariostea Library in Ferrara, in northern Italy. He wrote an essay on the second Vitruvian man that is set to be published, and is working on a book about its story. The American journalist Toby Lester wrote about Sgarbi’s discovery in a chapter of his book Da Vinci’s Ghost.

Leonardo’s Vitruvian man is the most famous anatomical drawing in history, in itself considered by some to be the depiction of Humanism. The man of the manuscript from Ariostea Library looks very different, and is by no means a great master’s work of art. Still, its measurements are the same.

Up until now, Leonardo was believed to be the first to have found geometrical solutions to the Latin theoretician’s indications. “At the beginning, I thought that it was a later drawing, inspired by Leonardo’s,” Sgarbi recalls. “Then, I measured the half-erased borders of a larger drawing. It was the same man, still inside a circle and a square. The final drawing had been reduced by half.”

Sgarbi explains that the erased drawing has a side of the square that measures 180 millimeters, with the circle’s radius of 108 millimeters, which are the same dimensions of the square and the circle of Leonardo’s drawing, housed today in Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia.”

Read on at Worldcrunch .