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  • Russ Ramsey

DaVinci’s Studies of the Human Form

For today’s Art Wednesday we’ll take a look at Leonardo DaVinci’s studies of the human form. Artists of all types must practice fundamentals to wrap their minds around the structure and theory of their craft. Think of this column as a meditation on the importance and benefits of practicing your craft.

DaVinci, Studies of the Legs of a Man and of a Horse, 1507


The Proportions of the Human Figure, 1490.

This drawing led to DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man. Studying the human proportions, DaVinci found that a man with outstretched arms would fit into a perfect circle, and his navel would mark the center.

DaVinci, The Proportions of the Human Figure, 1490


Two Views of the Skull, 1489.

Here DaVinci is working on proportion. One of his observational notes reads, “Where the line r-n is intersected by the line h-f, there the fulcrum of the cranium is located at one third up from the baseline of the head.”

DaVinci, Two Views of the Skull, 1489


Study of Arms and Hands, 1474.

This study was probably preparation for a particular work. Studies are just that, opportunities to get a handle on how to execute what a particular work calls for.

DaVinci, Study of Arms and Hands, 1474


Study of a Face for a Warrior, 1503.

This was a study for DaVinci’s The Battle of Anghiari, 1505. DaVinci’s painting has since been lost, but Peter Paul Rubens made a copy of it, and in Ruben’s work, we see this same face almost exactly.

DaVinci, Study of a Face for a Warrior, 1503


Peter Paul Rubens, After Leonardo da Vinci, The Battle of Anghiari, c. 1603


Drawing After Michelangelo’s David, 1504.

Michelangelo was a young contemporary who impressed DaVinci. This study is one master breaking down the work of another master.

DaVinci, Drawing After Michelangelos David (and David), 1504


Studies for the Exterior Anatomy of the Man and for Other Figures, 1506.

Work trying to understand musculature and skeletal structure. Mastering proper proportions serves the art by limiting distractions for the viewer.

DaVinci, Studies for the Exterior Anatomy of the Man and for Other Figures, 1506


The Fetus in the Womb, 1512.

The scientific understanding of life in the womb was not fully developed when DaVinci made this sketch. He drew this study in his private journal late in his life. His curiosity and desire to learn remained.

DaVinci, The Fetus in the Womb, 1512


The Neck and Shoulders of a Man, 1510.

DaVinci lived from 1452-1519. He did studies like those we’ve seen today throughout the course of his life as an artist. Embrace the role of practicing your craft.

DaVinci, The Neck and Shoulders of a Man, 1510

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