Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Annunciation; Leonardo da Vinci 1472–1475 and the Study of Human Proportions


For our picture study this week we looked at DaVinci's Annunciation. This is one of his early works when he was apprenticed to Verrocchio. Verrocchio painted much of the painting including Mary and left a note for Leonardo to finish the background and the angel. Leonardo used light brush strokes and had no lead in his paint whereas Verrocchio used a lead paint and heavy brush strokes. When the Annunciation was x-rayed, Verrocchio's work was evident while Leonardo's angel was invisible. (Wikipedia)

Sometimes it is good to give them a background of the subject of the painting and sometimes it is not, I decided that now, especially in this Christmas season, it was a good opportunity to remind them what the Annunciation was about, so I read to them from the book of Luke, Chapter 1, verses 26-38 (WEB):

"Now in the sixth month, the archangel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. Having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, you highly favored one! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered what kind of salutation this might be. The angel said to her, "Don’t be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and will call his name ‘Jesus.’ He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever. There will be no end to his Kingdom." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, seeing I am a virgin?" The angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, also has conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For everything spoken by God is possible." said, "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word." The angel departed from her."
We also could compare it to an Annunciation picture we had seen before by Giotto. How are they alike? How are they different? Which do you like better and why?
Our family had five out of six who preferred the Giotto picture, which I guess shows that our tastes run more Medieval than Renaissance.

We talked about how DaVinci was also a scientist and he really was interested in the proportions of the human body (and animal bodies, too). We have done body measurements before, but not in specific proportions. We found a list of adult human proportions that Leonardo noted as standard proportions in the book Leonardo da Vinci for kids (which in general I don't think is worth it because I did not feel the information in it was that outstanding and most of the activities were not that unique.)

"The span of a man's outstretched arms is equal to his height."
Even though these proportions are supposed to be for an adult, we thought we would try them and began measuring. We found this statement to be true all around from Quentin to myself.
The ear is as long as the nose.
We found this to be true as well, all within 1/4 inch.
The foot is one-half as long as the distance from the heel to the knee.
This, too, was true for us.
The head is one-eighth of the person's height.
We did not find this to be true. Our measurements showed our heads to be a bit larger than one-eighth.
(No jokes about us being big-headed, please.)
The distance across the face from ear to another is the same as that from eyebrow to chin.
Our measurements consistently showed that the distance from eyebrow to chin was about half of the distance across the face from ear to ear, which lead us to wonder if the book got this wrong and that is should say that the measurement across the face from ear to another is double that of the distance from eyebrow to chin.
I am curious to know how your measurements turn out.

2 comments:

  1. What a cool idea! I actually remember some of that from something I did back in school. I remember the arm/height thing from middle school.

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  2. I'm sure our heads aren't one-eighth either but we will have to do the measurements just to be sure.

    But the golden ratio is fascinating as it relates to architecture and the human body. I love how there's a great design in the universe...makes me think it wasn't completely random.

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