Drawing Basics: Panzera and Leonardo's Vitruvian Man

During the course of my work with Drawing magazine, I occasionally get to visit with Anthony Panzera, an excellent draftsman and teacher at Hunter College, on New York's Upper East Side. He is a man of dignity and warmth, and I enjoy chatting with him. Panzera wrote a book about Leonardo's figure drawings and drawing sketchbooks, and he drew original illustrations inspired by the Renaissance master's sketches to accompany his thoughts and research. He agreed to let me publish part of one of his chapters in Drawing, and while working on it, I came across this paragraph that really piqued my interest. It's about Leonardo's famous drawing Vitruvian Man.


During my visit to the Venice Academy (in the summer of 2007) I discovered two aspects of the drawing not observable in reproduction.  Another drawing, or a least a sketch, must have been made prior to the final drawing because one can clearly make out, impressed deeply into the paper on both the recto and verso sides of the drawing, the incised lines made by a stylus. These incised lines conform perfectly to the outline of the figure as well as to the edges of some of the large muscle groups, particularly evident in the legs.  In addition there are tiny pinholes in the drawing marking the essential intersecting points.  These are evident where the circle intersects the square, at the corners of the square, where the tips of the middle fingers of each of the four hands touch the square and the circle, at the marks of the width of the fingers and the palms along the measuring line at the bottom of the drawing, at various other points on the face and the torso, and most importantly in the very center of the umbilicus. The initial drawing had to have been laid over the final sheet and pierced with a pin to mark the essential points. Then the sketch was incised with a stylus and the impression passed through the top sheet to the sheet below it.  The inked lines were then added and are so perfect and complete there is a sense that the drawing was done only after thorough and careful preparation, the kind of preparation used for presentation or instructional purposes.


Interesting, huh? Here's an example of Panzera's illustrations for his book. Incidentally, if you know of a publisher who would appreciate this project, let me know–this book needs to get out into the world so everyone can benefit from Panzera's studies, scholarship, and artistry.

Panzera's drawing after Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man:

Panzera's drawing after Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

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Bob Bahr

About Bob Bahr

Hi. I'm the managing editor of American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Drawing magazine is primarily my responsibility so I spend a lot of time looking at drawings, talking with draftsmen, and drawing ... but I love to paint, too.

2 thoughts on “Drawing Basics: Panzera and Leonardo's Vitruvian Man

  1. Beautifully written. I’m enjoying both your blog, Bob, and this particular entry. Panzera should join the forum! His insights are meticulous, just like his subject and I’m interested in reading more by him.

    Thank you for sharing!