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The story behind the world's most famous drawing

posted 19 Dec 2011, 10:20 by Jamie Condliffe

Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man is the most widely recognised drawing on the planet. A study of human form and proportion, the iconic depiction of a man standing with arms outstretched, framed by circle and square, has come to epitomise the notion of imitation as the sincerest form of flattery: it has been used by Disney, appeared on Euro coins, and even been parodied on The Simpsons.

But the image wasn't a product of imagination alone. In his new book, Da Vinci's Ghost, Toby Lester uncovers its long and intricate history, revealing that da Vinci was in the business of imitation himself. Indeed, the drawing built on the idea that the human form was a precisely proportioned structure representing the measure of all things - a philosophy developed by the Roman architect Vitruvius during the rule of Caesar Augustus.