Vitruvian Man

I recently saw an article about how Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek), has all the correct proportions to match Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. The proportions, or "golden ratio" Da Vinci created for the "ideal man."

 

I feel that now, more than ever before in history, the idea of what it means to be a man is undergoing intense change. The fact that the 2019 "We Believe: The Best a Men Can Be" Gillette advertisement was a controversy, says a lot about how mixed the world's views are towards what it means to be a man. And for so long society's idea of a perfect man being tall, but not too tall, strong, but gentle, and unemotional, but compassionate has plagued men's self-esteem. And why might I be writing about this on a platform for female writers? Because I feel it is everyone's responsibility to let others know (no matter their gender) that they are loved and perfect just as they are. And to do this, I want us all to take a lesson from another "perfect man" from history.

 

The Statue of David, carved by Michelangelo around the year 1504, is now housed in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy. I was blessed enough to visit Florence for a week through a college program, and I got to visit this statue. It was designed by Michelangelo to adorn the top of the Florence Cathedral. But when the council that commissioned it saw the completed work, they couldn't bring themselves to put it up on a high place. It was too beautiful. They wanted everyone to see this masterpiece. So, they placed wooden boards along Florence's streets, greased them with pig fat, and pushed the statue around the city for all to see for two weeks. The statue remained outside the main government building in Florence for three centuries until it started to become damaged by weather and vandalism. This prize of Florence rests now among art and ancient instruments in the Galleria dell'Accademia and can be seen replicated in street art, in souvenirs in shop windows, and on posters throughout the city. It is still considered today to be a perfect example of man.

 

I can't deny the statue's beauty. The curly hair, expressive eyes, and rippling muscles show Michelangelo's master handiwork and offers an artist's unparalleled perspective of one of the great heroes of the Bible. As you walk around the statue and observe his face, you begin to see an emotional story of the day David was to slay Goliath. Viewing him straight on, you see nervousness, "I am young, I could die, I have never killed." Continuing to the right, the skylight above him shadows his face in a way that makes him appear as if he is looking out into the sun, at the hill covered by the Philistine army. We see fear, but more importantly, determination. Viewing him now from the back, we see comfort and confidence. Here, David shifts his weight onto one hip and rests his slingshot over his shoulder. He has used this tool before, he has killed lions and bears with it and he is comfortable in his capability and knowledge. Finally, from the left, we see strength and bravery. The solider. David's rippling muscles, strong gaze and amazing physique. David is ready for battle.

 

Here is the thing about the David. It's not perfect. David's hands in this statue are certainly not proportional and his head is much larger than it really should be. If you look even closer at his hands, his right has beautiful veins and bones showing, but his left has far less detail. He appears to have a swollen ear almost like cauliflower ear that wrestlers receive from contact pressure in matches. His left toes are completely wrecked. They almost don't look finished. They are mangled, and rocky, and honestly do not seem to have received attention. His knees look like knee pads. They are very square and not as accurately detailed as most of the statue. And most importantly, why is a young shepherd boy portrayed older, more muscular, and going to battle entirely naked? Now to be fair to Michelangelo, the statue did experience vandalism throughout its history and was meant to be viewed from below at a distance, thus the head and hands are depicted disproportionately. And Michelangelo had some early anatomical knowledge thanks to his opportunities to dissect bodies, however, medical knowledge was still limited during his time. So overall, the David displays the best anatomical knowledge at the time offered. Nonetheless, the David does indeed have several visible imperfections for what is considered the example of an ideal man.

 

Perhaps Michelangelo meant for this to be. To show that even the "perfect man" has imperfections. Perhaps Michelangelo's portrayal of various emotions on David's face was intentional, meaning to show that it's ok for men to show fear and to still be brave. And perhaps, Michelangelo meant for there to be physical imperfections on his "perfect" man, because maybe, there is no perfect man. I believe this offers a lesson to men, and really, everyone. It's ok to show emotions. It's ok if not all your features are fully formed and meet the world's standards for beauty or what is considered normal. I feel it's time to stop telling men what they shouldn't be doing and to start demonstrating what they should be doing. And I feel it's time that we all cherished each other's imperfections for making us unique.

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