“The height of a man is equal to the space between his two outstretched arms”, around 1489-1490, with “The Vitruvian Man”, Leonardo da Vinci manages, unlike the architect Vitruvius, to make the synthesis of Man, the material or physical man and the spiritual or metaphysical man.
Indeed, the man in the square, centered on the genitals, has his feet on the ground. The square materializing the four elements water & earth & fire & air, this physical world where man is contained in this square with a finite perimeter. In addition, to clearly mark this finished aspect of the dimensions, Leonard takes care at the horizontal level of the arms to trace vertically the position of the shoulder, the elbow and the handle, and vice versa at the level of the legs.
By off-centering the Vitruvian circle on the navel, center of energy, center of the sacred world, Leonardo da Vinci succeeded in giving, at the same time, a sacred character to man. The circle goes beyond the physical dimension of the man by raising him above the ground towards the sky with his legs and arms outstretched. The circle has an infinite perimeter involving Pi=3.14… number with infinite decimal places. We find in the preface to the “Essais de Montaigne”: “[Hermes] Trismegistus, it is said, calls the Deity a circle whose center is everywhere, the circumference nowhere.”
Man has always tried to connect with the sky, with the universe. To go a little further than the circle, man can be considered in movement in time or placed in an infinite sphere; the universe that we find in the “Pensées of Pascal” in these terms: “It is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere, the circumference nowhere”.
What connects these two representations of the perfect and central man is divine proportion, a term introduced by the scholar Luca Pacioli in his work “De divina proportione”, a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci. Indeed, the ratio between the measurement of the side of the square and that of the radius of the circle (or between the elbow and the foot) is a good approximation of the golden number, Phi=1.62... (16.2/10.0 or 4.05/2.5), also with an infinity of decimals. To continue with the sacred numbers, the creation of man appears on the sixth day, except what connects VInci to VItruvius is the six of the first two letters in the Roman numeral VI (there are even THREE VI in the original name of the architect VITRVVII…). And to continue playing with numbers, if we only write the U as a V we have VITRVVE whose anagram gives “I TRE VVV”, the three 5s like the initials of LDV (Leonardo Da Vinci or in Italian Leonardo Da Vinci or in Tuscan/Florentine Lionardo Da Vinci) in Roman numeral it is 555. The number 5 is the number of the microcosm which represents the individual Man while the 6 is the universal Man.
NB: Not only is “The Vitruvian Man” certainly the most famous drawing but to restore parity, “The Mona Lisa” is the most famous painting where we also find the golden ratio. Moreover, in the painting treatise “Trattato della pittura di Lionardo Da Vinci”, the reader is warned in the introduction: “Let no one read my works if he is not a mathematician”.