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an image of health / fitness / medicine

One of the most common uses of the Vitruvian Man today is as an image associated with health/fitness, and with the practice of medicine.

In some cases, the Vitruvian Man is himself taken as an embodiment of health. In other cases, he seems to be used more symbolically, as an image of science, art, and proportion enmeshed to embody the practice of medicine.

health / fitness

In some cases, the Vitruvian man may be taken, more or less, at face value as an image of a balanced, healthy man - as Dr. Adrian Ngyuen says on his site, "Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man - the embodiment of health for man and woman."

source: www.dr-nguyen.com

Another example is that of the Supports4U Catalog of Orthapedic products, in which the Vitruvian Man seems to jump with joy over the support that these orthapedic products provide him:

Additionally, ABC Fitness in Italy uses the Vitruvian man as an embodiment of female fitness. Or, perhaps, this image is saying that female fitness can exceed that of this "ideal" man:

source: ABC Fitness

the practice of medicine

Not just an image of a healthy man, the Vitruvian Man has also been appropriated as the image of the perfect physician, and the ideal in the practice of medicine. In his article "Vitruvian Man: Metaphor of a 'compleat' physician" (Pharos, Summer 1997, 22-27), Mark D. Williams explains this by saying, "Metaphorically, [the Vitruvian Man] may also symbolize the three essential attributes of a 'compleat' physician - science, humanitarianism, and artistry."

According to Williams, the square represents science, the circle represents humanitarian service, and the triangle starting at the pubis and reaching the two extended feet (shown below) represents the art and practice of medicine. He explains, "enclosure by the square symbolizes the scientific paradigm and the corollary that through science eventually humankind can understand everything. With a broad-based stance on earth and upper limbs uplifted to the heavens, a physician also subtends a circle centered upon the umbilicus but rising above the square - symbolizing holistic, maternal, generative, nurturing, encompassing, and transcendent humanitarian service...Conjoining components of both geometric figures, with the center of the scientific square as the apex and the circle of humanitarian service as the base, a physician subtends another geometric figure - a triangle - symbolizing the art and practice of medicine.

Author's reconstruction of image in Pharos, Summer 1997, 26.

"A 'compleat' physician must be a master of science; it is the apex of the art, yet science alone is incomplete and insufficient. A physician serves humankind, not science. Science is the apex, the how (means), and humanitarian service is the foundation, the why (ends) of the art and practice of medicine."

The chiropractic practice Physicians Plus in Springfield, MA, seems to make use of a similar theory of the Vitruvian Man as representational of the practice of medicine. They explain their choice of the Vitruvian Man as their logo as follows:

"Not only was Leonardo an artist, a philosopher, and an inventor, but also an anatomist – one of the first to dissect and map the human body… This 'Universal Man' represents the beauty, complexity, and symmetry of the human frame. It also represents da Vinci’s passion for the Art, the Science and the Philosophy of the medical field so familiar to that of chiropractic. It is for these reasons we have chosen his art work as our logo."

source: PhysiciansPlus


Other groups relating the Vitruvian Man to health/fitness/the practice of medicine include: