ann pontén marcel duchamp
vitruvian man
Expressions of the Inscribed Body:
A Study of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man
The tensile geometry of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man;
One of the most frequently reproduced, paraphrased, and recycled drawings in Western art history –Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man– has been claimed being based on thorough empirical measurements on actual bodies, which then generated the geometry of the inscribing square and circle.
On the other hand, by treating the geometric figures in the manuscript empirically, a margin of error for the instability of the construction can be suggested. Within this margin of error, a number of constructive relations between the square and circle can be found. Thus, the margin of error contains several very good approximations of the squaring of the circle –a problem to which Leonardo devoted numerous notes.
The manuscript treats the body as a moving geometric tool and its text prescribes certain relations between the bodily positions within the square and the circle. However, it can easily be shown that the body –and specifically the separation of the legs– simply cannot generate the geometry as suggested by Leonardo. Therefore the manuscript actually refutes both the idea of empiricism and the idea of the body as a tool generating of the square and circle. It ends up as an illusion demonstrating the rhetoric of Leonardo’s persuasive style.