Human Proportions, Compared To Nature
Seems surprising that man, who inhabits nature, waited until the 15th Century to undertake profound studies into the proportions of man with regard to the world which surrounds us. There was of course curiosity in the past, but the subject was not explored fully until the Cinquecento.
The erudites who took an interest in these issues in the past were Leon Battista Alberti, Vitruvius, Da Vinci and finally Le Corbusier, who all wrote treatises on anthropometry.
In 1436, Leon Battista Alberti wrote the , a literary work which Alberti dedicated to Brunelleschi and in which he attempted to give systematic rules to the figurative arts. In the second volume of the treatise, specifically in the second section, Alberti addresses the
“Compositione”, the composition, and deals with the theory of proportions based on anatomy. This is therefore, a first approach to anthropometry.
It wasn’t long until Leonardo da Vinci drew what we now know as “The Vitruvian Man” (1490) in one of his journals. This drawing depicts the male form in two positions, accompanied by anatomical notes and geometrical forms of “Divine Proportions”. This is a study of the proportions of the human body, based on the architecture texts of Vitruvius, an architect of ancient Rome. It is also known as the “Canon of Proportions”.
The rediscovery of the mathematical proportions of the human body in the 15th Century by Leonardo and other authors is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Renaissance.
More interest was shown in anthropometry in the middle of the 20th Century, from Le Corbusier. In 1948 he published the book The “Modulor”, followed by “Modular 2” in 1953, in which he introduces and explains his work in the search of a mathematical relationship between the measurements of man and nature. In a way, this is an anthropometric search for a system of human body measurements in which each number is related to the one before by the Golden Ratio, with the aim of using this in the architectural process. Delving into the study of proportions generates as a result a Fibonacci sequence, which enables thousands of harmonious combinations.