Da Vinci and proportions

Amateur anthropometrists (and artists) make note that askSam has posted Leonardo Da Vinci’s Complete Notebooks in a free, searchable askSam database — search, browse, and analyze the texts, either on-line or on your own PC (you can also download the ebook). The Da Vinci’s Notebooks contain over 1,500 pages of information. Here is a sample from volume1-Proportions and Movements of the Human Figure, entry# 340.

From the chin to the roots of the hair is 1/10 of the whole figure. From the joint of the palm of the hand to the tip of the longest finger is 1/10. From the chin to the top of the head 1/8; and from the pit of the stomach to the top of the breast is 1/6, and from the pit below the breast bone to the top of the head 1/4. From the chin to the nostrils 1/3 Part of the face, the same from the nostrils to the brow and from the brow to the roots of the hair, and the foot is 1/6, the elbow 1/4, the width of the shoulders 1/4.

and entry #342:

The width of a man under the arms is the same as at the hips. A man’s width across the hips is equal to the distance from the top of the hip to the bottom of the buttock, when a man stands equally balanced on both feet; and there is the same distance from the top of the hip to the armpit. The waist, or narrower part above the hips will be half way between the arm pits and the bottom of the buttock.

Unfortunately, the sketches such as the Vitruvius’ scheme of proportions are absent. Perhaps those are included in the free ebook which I’ve yet to download.

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  1. Da Vinci was a genius, but take his proportion rules with a grain of salt. a lot of them are correct, or at least a good guide, but the vast majority of people are NOT 8 heads tall. I’m 6 1/2, which is pretty typical for a shortish woman. My husband, who is ridiculously tall and thin (6’4″) is 7 1/4 heads. 8 heads looks pretty monstrous in real life.

    The reason I bother to write this is because I’m sick of designers using unrealistic figures to design their clothes. The proportions are all off on a normal human, once you translate it. I’ve gotten into argumants about this with friends indoctrinated by design school into the cult of the “ideal figure, ” and I do NOT agree with the practice. Please, join me in my campaign to end the reign of designing for mutants. (sorry for the slur to all those runway models out there.)

  2. Rita Yussoupova says:

    There is a new (2003) book on grading out there
    “The Essentials of pattern grading”
    by Moira Doyle and Jason Rodgers
    It is used in colleges to teach grading
    This is not available on line or in stores – published by http://www.hanoverphist.com

    It looked great to me; I thought the illustrations were a bit busy, but may be that is what young students like.

  3. Sabrina says:

    In response to Jinger, maybe people were 8 heads tall back in the 15th Century, when people were shorter. I am roughly 8 heads tall at roughly 5’2″, depending on how you take the head measurement, which is difficult.

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