What’s this guy doing here? Well, Leonardo da Vinci was trying to show man’s place in the cosmos, and this was one place he did it. There are a lot of secrets in da Vinci’s work; here’s one of them. My book, Invisible Agents of Creation: Implications of Cosmic Patterns is concerned with these and related matters. Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Circle and Square
Many people are familiar with the drawing at right known as the Vitruvian Man. It depicts two men of ideal proportions superimposed on one another. It is loosely based on earlier work by a Roman architect named Vitruvius who lived in the first century bce. Besides the superposition, Leonardo added the circle and square. Nobody seems to question where the circle and square came from, and why they are the size they are. They have nothing to do with Vitruvius, only with Leonardo. Yes, they touch the hands and feet of the figures, but the upper set of arms could have been drawn higher, say, which would change their relationship. Why these particular circles and squares?
According to the WikiPedia article on Vitruvian Man, we are told that
“Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.”
There is much more to this last idea than at first meets the eye. For if we stack two circles that represent the Earth and Moon on top of each other, to scale, a new sort of picture is revealed. The larger circle that encompasses them both exactly matches the one Leonardo drew. Now we see why he drew the upper arms in the position we see them; they define the Earth plus Moon circle exactly.
It is facile to assume Leonardo did not know this. Surely it’s a major part of the human body as “an analogy for the workings of the universe.” Cosmography is a description and interpretation of the visible universe. In philosophy, it is the science dealing with the whole order of nature. Leonardo, therefore, is perhaps showing us that the order of the universe is based on, or intimately connected with, us as human beings, of which his drawn figures are symbolic.
More could be said here about Leonardo’s possible motivation for drawing this particular diagram the way he did. Is it significant, for example, that Earth and Moon join exactly where man’s brain is? (This is also where the third eye or ajna chakra is located.) Are we to think about them together in some sense, of which this drawing is some sort of abstract hint? Leonardo concealed much in his art, and he certainly couldn’t draw actual Earth and Moon circles without getting a knock on the door from the Inquisition. So let’s look at this drawing more closely.
Look first at just the man with his arms straight out and feet together. He just fits inside the square; his genitals are at the exact center of this square. A horizontal line through his navel, though, forms a rectangle down to his feet that has a width to height ratio of φ, the Golden Mean, a ratio that was used by many different Renaissance artists to determine the relations among the elements in their paintings; Leonardo used it over and over again. The second man with more upraised arms and spread legs describes the circle Leonardo drew; its center is the man’s navel. Inside this circle I’ve shown the Earth and Moon to scale. This diagram is sometimes shown with the Moon sitting on the man’s head, which isn’t strictly correct. As noted, there is more about this drawing to “think” about than first meets the eye. Above all, though, the tips of the upper fingers link the circle macrocosm of Earth and Moon with the microcosm of man himself—which, we are going to see as we go along, really is an analogy for the “workings of the universe.”