The ‘Vitruvian Man’ by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most iconic images of Renaissance art.
Dating from 1490, this pen and ink drawing depicts a male figure in superimposed positions, arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. The accompanying text details the ideal human proportions, with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.
However, one historian has now suggested da Vinci copied the work.
Claudio Sgarbi, an Italian architectural historian, discovered a deeply similar drawing by Giacomo Andrea de Ferrara (below) in 1986. De Ferrara was a Renaissance architect, a renowned expert on Vitruvius, and – fancy this – a close friend of Leonardo da Vinci.
Sgarbi claims that de Ferrara drew his Vitruvian man first, and will lay out his arguments in academic papers due to be published this winter. He also says it’s likely de Ferrara and da Vinci discussed their respective works with one another.
Sgarbi’s case will point out that Leonardo’s version mentions “Giacomo Andrea’s Vitruvius,” likely a direct reference to the de Ferrara manuscript. And it’s said the men had dinner together in July 1490, the same year they both drew their Vitruvian men. Many historians suggest Leonardo would have used this occasion to pick at Giacomo Andrea’s vast knowledge of Vitruvius.
While both drawings are deeply similar, Leonardo’s is flawlessly executed, and Sgarbo is expected to argue this is because da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man was a refined version of de Ferrara’s.
Sadly for de Ferrara, I suspect the time for claiming royalties on the millions of Vitruvian Man mugs, mouse mats, and t-shirts has passed. Here’s de Ferrara’s Vitruvian man:
[Via Smithsonian Magazine]