Also commonly called “Canon of Properties” or “Proportions of Man,” in fact it was little more than an artistic exercise in the many pages of his sketchbooks. But centuries later, it’s become to be one of the most lasting and important works of the 15th century Italian painter, architect, inventor, musician, astrologer, ecologist, naturalist, sculptor, and Renaissance Man.
Vitruvian Man, completed around the year 1487, was actually a tribute to a Roman architect that lived in the 1st century B.C. named Vitruvius who built temples and other structures devoted to emulating the perfect symmetry found in nature. Leonardo – like many of his contemporary painters and artists – carefully studied Vitruvius’ connection between architecture, proportions, and natural order and his life’s work trying to express the beauty of the universe and human form in architecture, and vice versa.
In Book III of his treatise De Architectura, Vitruvius wrote:
“For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands and feet extended, and a pair of compasses centered at his navel, the fingers and toes of his two hands and feet will touch the circumference of a circle described therefrom. And just as the human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may be found from it.”
Da Vinci was fascinated by the relationship between human proportion, architecture, mathematics, and the celestial connection. With Vitruvian Man, he was incredibly vanguard in his belief that humankind represented a microcosm of the universe, and the ratios of everything around us represented the human form, too.
Fitting within a perfect square and also a perfect circle, the human body therefore presented a case study in synergy between order of the mortal and terrestrial, and that of creation and the natural universe.
For that extraordinary vision, we might even call Leonardo da Vinci the first chiropractor in spirit, as he was one of the first to aesthetically document the link between man and nature, and did so according to precise mathematical principles that would satiate even the most discerning scientist.
So, too, chiropractic at its essence blends science, the study of anatomy, and the undeniable causation and connection to the natural. By studying the universe, we can uncover causations that allow human beings – and their bodies – to be in sync with nature, not to try to manipulate or mask the natural as traditional medicine often does.
With its artistic and scientific genius apparent for centuries, it’s no wonder why Vitruvian Man is often used as a modern symbol of the field of medicine and healthcare. But with its emphasis on balance and the embodiment of natural health, Leonardo da Vinci would surely have preferred it to represent chiropractic care if given the choice.