Leonardo Da Vinci is regarded as one of the greatest minds of all time for several reasons; he’s scientific curiosity, his artistic genius and his ability to turn his attention to seemingly every possible point of interest to name but a few. He was one of the few greats to be appreciated in his own day, and is still know worldwide today, his most famous works including the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa, his curious blueprints of bizarre flying machines, and his famous sketch of the ‘Vitruvian Man.’
The Vitruvian Man incorporates the ideals of the male human form, derived after its namesake – the Ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, so named as it was based on his work on the ideal geometric proportions in architecture outlined in his treatise De Architectura (which served as the basis for most Ancient Roman Classical architecture, such as Rome’s aqueducts, prompted the Neo-Classical architectural style, and also influencing Archimedes’ discovery of the measurement of the volume of irregular objects in water). Aside from a shared interest in ideal proportions, Vitruvius also bore similarities to Da Vinci by way of his varied interests outside his main field of study – touching on a huge range of subjects including astronomy, medicine and mathematics to assist him in his architectural designs.
And it is in this similarity that the true value of the Vitruvian Man lies. It is the very symbol of what Leonardo Da Vinci stood for – an interest in all things. It brings together his love of both science and art, being in part both and not wholly either. The two are understood as being parts of the same, not segregated as they often are the in the modern world (something which is slowly beginning to change, as scientists collaborate with artists to present their findings to the public in new and exciting ways). Da Vinci believed that the workings of the human body could be shown to be analogous to the mechanics of the greater universe. In a way that is perhaps recognisable to certain schools of thought today, Da Vinci wanted to bring man and Nature together, and show them not as separate entities but as a single whole – completely similar, yet altogether different.
It is yet another instance of how Leonardo’s intellect was before his time, not only creating blueprints for wonderful machines what would be not be realised until hundreds of years later, not only making discoveries which would not be appreciated for years to come, but showed an understanding into the very mindsets of people who would not be born for centuries. He embodied both the typical Renaissance man – interested in everything, a lover of science and art, an intellectual – and the modern man – fascinated with finding truth, realising humanity’s place in the wider universe and recognising that things rarely exist alone but lie on a spectrum with all else that exists.
So although the Vitruvian Man is in one instance a mathematical and artistic wonder, it is also valuable for showing us Da Vinci’s nature and the true extent of his genius. It is the very symbol of his artistic and scientific prowess, as well as an icon for his progressive and novel ideas, which still hold sway in the advances of today.