We’ve all heard of Leonardo da Vinci, and perhaps you’re also familiar with his Vitruvian Man. Looks like just a simple pen and ink drawing?
There’s a more to it than that…
As with man ideas born of The Renaissance, this is a problem originally posed by the Ancient Greeks, in this case: how do you square a circle? Or more specifically, if you know the area of a circle, then how do you create a square of equal size?
Answer: it’s actually impossible due to the nature of ‘Pi’
But that didn’t stop Leonardo. And the Vitruvian Man is his answer to the problem. His notebooks are filled with 1000’s of his attempts to ‘square the circle.’
Nearly 1500 years previous, the Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius also tried to tackle this problem, and he noticed there is a correlation between the height of a person and the width of their arm span – they are just about equal – so there is your square. He also noticed (incorrectly) that the navel was the centre of the human body, but that’s as far as he got.
Enter Leonardo and some lateral thinking: he says by changing the position of the man he can fill both the irreconcilable area of the square and the circle. If geometry is the language the universe is written in, then this sketch suggests that man can exist within all of its elements. Mankind can take any shape he pleases, geometrically and philosophically.
In this one sketch Leonardo combines mathematics, religion, philosophy, architecture and the artistic skill of his age. Squaring the circle and providing us with an iconic image of it’s time, and all time. All that with just a simple pen and ink drawing.