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Human Body Proportions

the human body proportions in the leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian man are but idealized guidelines because each individual person has got different shapes and proportionsHuman Body Proportions must be simplified because humans vary for gender, race and age.

So since Leonardo Da Vinci's famous Vitruvian man (here in a picture taken by Luc Viatour) , there have been different ways to look at body.

Vitruvius was a Roman architect (late 1st century) claimed that the perfect man could fit in a circle and square as Leonardo's drawing illustrates (pen on paper, before 1511).

In the Middle Ages, on the other hand, the ideal of beauty was rather different. Not only beauty was assigned to Saints and the Vergin Mary only (any other kind of human beauty was considered from the devil), but also the body proportions were different.

In medieval time there was the idea that a perfect body should be "elongated", so that the distance from a point between the breast to the navel is twice as long as in the Vitruvian man.

human body proportions: the elongation ideal in the middle ages

Martin Schongauer, "The Fourth Wise Virgin", 1483, copper engraving , Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, Hungary
We can see how much longer are the legs and much higher is the navel in this lower medieval engraving in respect to the Vitruvian man.


THE 8 HEADS METHOD, modern proportions

Draw a vertical line. This is the whole "body"

The body is 7 to 8 times the head (average 7.5). This is the average in real life.

In drawing, we idealize this proportions and create the "8 head" rule: we divide the vertical length of the body in 8 section which are exactly 8 heads (measured vertically).

So, from the top if you go down these are the reference points all equally distant the length of a head;

0. TOP of HEAD


The finger tips reach normally the middle of the thigh

One hand length is roughly equal to one head length.

The tip of the nose is halfway between the eyes and the chin.

Male and female bodies differ!

Human body proportions

More about the head proportions here:

The Eyes are at mid-height of the face!

This is where most people fail because they don't see it.

For the rest consider the picture.The eye width is the main key!

Head proportions

Here are Leonardo Da Vinci studies for the face proportions

Leonardo da Vinci Drawing -face proportions
Leonardo da Vinci study of the head

leonardo Da Vinci, head proportionsLeonardo da Vinci study of the head


human body proportions egyptian
Egyptian proportions

human body proportions chrisostomos martinez
A plate by Chrisostomo Martinez (1638-1694), a Spanish engraver.


Bibliography (free books)

Why are these books free ? Because the copyright has expired! So use them!


Joseph Bonomi the Younger (9 October 1796 – 3 March 1878) was an English sculptor who wrote on Leonardo Da Vinci's (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) notes who wrote after Vitruvius (born c. 80–70 BC, died after c. 15 BC) the Roman architect who got inspired by the Greek tradition. Do you see? Knowledge is built upon the shoulders of giants and an artist look at the past to learn!


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