Those unto whom nature has been so bountiful that they are at once geometricians, astrono­mers, musicians, and skilled in many other arts, go beyond what is required of the architect… Men so gifted, discriminate acutely, and are rare…. Vitruvius


Vitruvius was an architect and – being a product of the high classical world – was well aware of the many qualifications required of an architect to bring his work into harmony with the needs of what today would be called the end users. Leonardo, commenting on Vitruvius’ work, during his architectural apprenticeship copied his ideal figure whose proportions were to be the basis between design and execution in building [it does very little good to assume the ideal man is eight heads high (Vitruvius’ ideal) and build houses for men that are either four or twelve heads high!].

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Two of the difference’s between Lenardo’s world and Vitruvius’ were the ascendency of a continuously less plausible metaphysics and an increasing availability of knowledge about the physical universe that constantly outstripped the widest boundaries of these new metaphysical fancies. The classical world had a well developed picture of man and his place in a well defined cosmos. As the renaissance destroyed the definitions of the cosmos it cut man loose from his moorings and set him adrift where he could be continuous redefined with each new metaphysical leap. The problem with this is of course that human nature is a constant and to assume otherwise admits chaos.

Vitruvian Man ceased to exist within a circle of proportion and has be imprisoned within a pentagram that sets the boundaries of modern man in something that can be neither measured nor recognized. The answer may well be to read Vitruvius rather than these modern interpretations.

Da Vinci’s ghost : genius, obsession, and how Leonardo created the world in his own image  Toby Lester  New York : Free Press, 2012  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xv, 275 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.) ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 231-254) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Everybody knows the picture: a man, meticulously rendered by Leonardo da Vinci, standing with arms and legs outstretched in a circle and a square. Deployed today to celebrate subjects as various as the grandeur of art, the beauty of the human form, and the universality of the human spirit, the drawing turns up just about everywhere: in books, on coffee cups, on corporate logos, even on spacecraft. It has become the world’s most famous cultural icon — and yet almost nobody knows about the epic intellectual journeys that led to its creation. In this modest drawing that would one day paper the world, da Vinci attempted nothing less than to calibrate the harmonies of the universe and understand the central role man played in the cosmos.

Storyteller Toby Lester brings Vitruvian Man to life, resurrecting the ghost of an unknown Leonardo. Populated by a colorful cast of characters, including Brunelleschi of the famous Dome, Da Vinci’s Ghost opens up a surprising window onto the artist and philosopher himself and the tumultuous intellectual and cultural transformations he bridged. With a variety of original illustrations, Lester captures the brief but momentous time in the history of western thought when the Middle Ages gave way to the Renaissance, art and science and philosophy converged as one, and all seemed to hold out the promise that a single human mind, if properly harnessed, could grasp the nature of everything.

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