Chapter 5— Leonardo's Divine Proportions

Leonardo da Vinci
Vitruvian Man (1487)
Gallerie dell'Accademia,
Venice, Italy
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of my all-time heroes.
I read his Notebooks for philosophical insights. While attending the 1st Sickle Cell Conference in Washington DC (1967), I left some of the boring lectures and went to the National Gallery of Art to see Leonardo's Ginevra de' Benci, bought from Prince of Liechtenstein for a record price of $5 million. His artistic genius brought me to Milan to study his Last Supper on my first trip to Europe (August 1972). Visited Louvre in Paris (July 22, 1979) and waited till the crowd had gone in the Gallery. Spent an hour in communion with Mona Lisa's smile. Then it happened— Mona Lisa graced me with her smile and inspired the poem "Mona Lisa". My epiphany came when I realized that Mona Lisa's smile was the same as Mahakasyapa's during Buddha's silent Flower Sermon. Went to the Legion of Honor to view his Lady with an Ermine in San Francisco (May 13, 2003). Wowed by the exhibit "Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future" at San Jose's Tech Museum (November 1, 2008). Gathered 9 of my Leonardo postage stamps and exhibited them on a web page.
Vitruvian Man shows his fascination with Divine Proportions.

Leonardo's Studies with Luca Pacioli
Luca Pacioli was an Italian mathematician and Franciscan friar.
In 1494, his first book, Summa de arithmetica, geometria, Proportioni
et proportionalita
, was published in Venice. In 1497, he accepted an invitation from Duke Ludovico Sforza to work in Milan. There he met, taught mathematics to, collaborated, & lived with Leonardo da Vinci.
Their De divina proportione was written in Milan, 1496-1498, and
published in Venice, 1509. The subject was mathematical and artistic proportion, especially the mathematics of the golden ratio and its application in architecture. Leonardo da Vinci drew the illustrations of the Platonic solids in De divina proportione. Leonardo's drawings are probably the first illustrations of skeletonic solids which allowed an easy distinction between front and back.

Luca Pacioli (1447-1517)
wrote De divina proportione (1498)
    Stephen Dobyns' first Stanford poetry class (January 18, 2011) was to write a sonnet. I wrote "Platonic Lambda Sonnet" with Notes and Cornford's diagram of Plato's "Soul of the Universe". While writing this sonnet, I realized that Plato's "World Soul" is not something abstract and invisible, but quite tangible when we're walking and breathing, since its shape is our nose in the center of our face!

Plato's Soul of the Universe is placed as the nose in the center of our face

Leonardo da Vinci
The Platonic Lambda which Plato calls "Soul of the Universe" (Timaeus 35b) appeared abstract to me until I realized its concrete example in Giacometti's Walking Man that is present in every step we take. Likewise, if God created man by breathing into his nostrils a living soul (Genesis 2.7), the nose is the prime conduit of air in keeping us alive. So the Soul is not hidden but right in the center of our face. Leonardo's Vitruvian Man (1487) shows a man inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are called the Canon of Proportions, showing the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius. (Images: Leonardo da Vinci, Self Portrait (1515) and
Proportion of the Face)

Leonardo da Vinci
Proportions of the Face

    — Peter Y. Chou
        Mountain View, 10-24-2018