You’ve probably seen the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci, “Virtruvian Man” – a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs outstretched. It’s one of those paintings you can’t help but stare at for hours on end.
The “Virtruvian man” was created by Leonardo da Vinci around 1490. It features a muscular, representational male figure with his arm and leg outstretched, though with an unusually elongated neck. The figure’s eyes and mouth remain closed, and his cheek muscles ripple as if he is in pain. The work was painted during a period when da Vinci was preoccupied with a number of scientific, engineering and military studies.
Essentially, da Vinci wanted to show how accurately the human body can articulate its position in space and how it relates to geometry.
But what is the meaning behind a tattoo featuring this 16th Century masterpiece?
This post will take a look at all things Virtruvian Man to uncover why he is such an iconic tattoo, as well as its significance in today’s world.
Virtruvian Man Tattoo Meaning and symbolism
The connection between the human form and the universe
This tattoo has been interpreted as a representation of the human body as part of the divine order. “All things in the universe, from billiards balls to planets, are measured and organised in a mathematical pattern. The human body is likewise composed of vectors and fractals that are aligned perfectly with the geometry of nature, according to Leonardo Da Vinci.
Beauty and symbolic power
The form that Da Vinci’s male figure takes is both a physical representation of the human body, and also conveys a powerful symbolic meaning. The composition of straight and curved lines in his diagram reveals the elegance of his design, whilst at the same time conveying harmony and balance. Both the pathos and majesty of this image suggest a metaphorical relationship between the mind and body – through which to understand our place in the universe.
Renaissance philosophy lover
Renaissance philosophy declared that the divine, in order to be known, must be approached by means of the senses, rather than by philosophical speculation or abstract science. This is what Da Vinci tried to show with this image. He wanted to demonstrate that man is part of the natural world and can understand it through his senses.
The influence of the universe on men
Virtruvian man represents the ideal or perfect man, who concentrates his energy at his center as opposed to being dispersed around. It is an image that shows harmony among all elements contained within it. Its power comes from its ability to unite nature’s geometric principles with the human body.
The tattoo of the Virtruvian man has its origins in Renaissance Humanism. The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th through to the 17th Century, originating in Italy, and then spreading throughout Europe.
Following the tradition of the ancient Greek and Roman world, this period believed in the ideal form of beauty. It was an age in which mathematical proportions were seen as being sacred and perfect. In other words, these men thought that if they could find mathematical perfection they would find virtue and beauty as well.