The Vitruvian Man was created by Leonardo da Vinci around the year 1487. It is accompanied by notes based on the work of the famed architect, Vitruvius Pollio. The drawing, which is in pen and ink on paper, depicts a male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. It is stored in the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, Italy, and, like most works on paper, is displayed only occasionally.
The proportional relationship of the parts reflects the universal design. And a "medical" equilibrium of elements ensures a stable structure. These qualities are thus shared equally by God's creation of the human body and the human being's own production of a good building. In the late 1480s, this theme of the artistic microcosm emerged as one of the great unifying principles of his thought. This architectural application is not the end of the matter, however; it only represents the beginning of a concept which had a literally universal application.
This image provides a perfect example of Leonardo's keen interest in proportion. In addition, this picture represents a cornerstone of Leonardo's attempts to relate man to nature. Encyclopaedia Britannica online states, "Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe."
Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of Vitruvian Man is one of the most popular world icons. There have been countless attempts over the years to understand the composition of Leonardo's illustration of Vitruvius' principles.