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the perfect man

Many appropriations of the Vitruvian man utilize him as representative of mankind, in general, or of the perfect man. After all, he is often called "The Universal Man." Two particularly potent examples come from recent films: in the 1994 film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein uses the Vitruvian man as a model as he fashions new life, and the 1997 Contact uses a stylized Vitruvian Man to represent man to the cosmos.

in frankenstein - an image of perfection and ancient knowledge

As Victor Frankenstein puts the finishing touches on his creation in the 1994 film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he glances at a reproduction of the Vitruvian Man. On this diagram, several key points have been marked, which Frankenstein proceeds to reproduce on the body of his figure. His quest is the creation of the perfect man and a new life, and in this quest he imitates the “Universal Man”.

Source: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1994.

Source: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, dir. Kenneth Branagh, 1994.

What does the use of the Vitruvian Man as the model for Frankenstein’s monster indicate? A full analysis is well beyond the scope of this website, but a few speculations are presented below:

Additionally, there do seem to be parallels between Frankenstein and Leonardo himself. Both lived, as the introduction to the film reads, in "a world on the brink of revolutionary change…the quest for knowledge has never been greater. Alongside political and social upheaval, scientific advances that would profoundly change the lives of all." Both were passionate about investigating the body of man – Frankenstein in order to create anew, and Leonardo in order to understand the body and its relation to the cosmos. Both were passionate, scientific, driven men. Perhaps these parallels also contributed to the selection of "The Vitruvian Man" as Victor Frankenstein's model for his creation.



In the movie Contact, the human race has a close encounter with that of extra-terrestrial life. And what better to use as inspiration of the logo of the international space agency that is to be involved in making a 50-light year journey? You guessed it. Here, we see a logo clearly inspired by the Vitruvian Man symbolizing not any particular aspect of humanity, but humanity in and of itself.

source: Contact, 1994, dir. Robert Zemeckis