Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, French
Oil on canvas
45 1/2 x 59 inches (115.6 x 149.9 cm)
The Henry P. McIlhenny Collection in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1986
[ More Details ]
PA Academic Standards: Mathematics 2.3, F; 2.3, G
(Auxiliary PA Standards: Language Arts 1.4, B, C; 1.5 Science and Technology 3.2, C)
NJ Academic Standards: Mathematics 4.2, E
(Auxiliary NJ Standards: Language Arts 3.2, B Science 5.3, B)
Grade Level:For Grades 7–9, with modifications for Elem. and H.S.
Art Images Required:(A note about images: All images listed can be found by searching the collection at the Museum Website at www.philamuseum.org. Those images that are also available from Artstor are indicated in the body of the lesson plan with a search phrase. Typing that exact search phrase will direct you to the specific image from the Artstor database.)
- The Moorish Chief by Eduard Charlemont
- Figure of a Woman Mexican object, artist unknown
- At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Avalokiteshvara Khmer Empire, artist unkown
- Zapata by Jose Diego Maria Rivera
- To prepare for this lesson, ask students to bring in full-length magazine photos of people.
- Over the centuries, many different formulae have been created to describe the proportions of the human figure.
- Do people follow a "design pattern"? Is there a formula that can describe a how a human should appear?
- Distribute as a hand-out (or list on the board) the following classic proportions: According to the early Roman architect Vitruvius, there are certain proportions which are typical of the human body. These include the following:
- A palm is the width of four fingers
- A foot is the width of four palms
- A man's height is 24 palms
- The length of a man's outspread arms is equal to his height
- The distance from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is 1/10 of a man's height
- The distance from the top of the head to the bottom of the chin is 1/8 of a man's height
- The distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is 1/5 of a man's height
- The distance from the elbow to the armpit is 1/8 of a man's height
- The length of the hand is 1/10 of a man's height
- The distance from the bottom of the chin to the nose is 1/3 of the length of the head
- The distance from the hairline to the eyebrows is 1/3 of the length of the face
- The length of the ear is 1/3 of the length of the face
- Add that Leonardo da Vinci revised and added to Vitruvius' proportions. He noted that the length of the human face (from chin to top of the head) is 1/7 of the length of the human body.
(Modification—High school students may research these proportions from Web sites about Vitruvius and da Vinci. The details from da Vinci's writings can be found in translations from his Notebook VII, which can be found at http://www.fromoldbooks.org/Richter-NotebooksOfLeonardo/section-7/ )
- Select a classroom partner. Using measuring instruments, check the accuracy of these proportions. If any individual proportions vary from the classic descriptions, compute classroom averages to see if the variant results are outside the norm.
- Use measuring instruments to check whichever proportions can be measured on the pictures students brought from magazines, etc.
- Following a similar methodology, check human proportions for the following art images/objects:
- The Moorish Chief by Eduard Charlemont (Artstor search "The Moorish Chief, Conna Clark")
- At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Arstor search "At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance, Conna Clark")
- Figure of a Woman Mexican object, artist unknown (Artstor search "Figure of a Woman, Teotihuacan")
- Avalokiteshvara Khmer Empire, artist unkown (Artstor search "Avalokiteshvara, Conna Clark, 7th Century")
- Zapata by Jose Diego Maria Rivera (Artstor search "Emiliano Zapata, Cuernavaca")
- Discuss the observations of the class as they examine these examples. Draw conclusions regarding the accuracy of these proportions. Where proportions differ, discuss why artists might use these differences.
- Apply what you have learned by attempting to draw a human face using Vitruvius' proportions. Draw your face on graph paper so that proportions can be accurately measured.
(Modification—Elementary students should select a partner and, using brown craft paper, trace their partner's body. Have students measure their palms to see how many palms-long their bodies are. Experiment with other measurements, as well.)
Assessment:Elementary: Students should organize what they have learned into a chart. Then, using brown paper as above, trace an adult figure. Are the proportions the same? How do they differ? Compare the adult and the student drawings. Which are closer to Vitruvius' proportions? Adaptable for grades 7–12: If these proportions can duplicate an average or typical human form, are there outliers? What about professional basketball players or supermodels? Is there a different set of proportions that describe these groups? Explore this topic and write your results as an expository or informational essay.
- Can proportions also be used to describe other living things? Research standard measurements and discover proportions for another species of plant or animal (dogs, cats, oak trees, daisies, etc.). Make note of how many examples you measured before you came to your conclusions.
- Research other proportions or formulae used by artists to depict the human form. Compare these other attempts with that of Vitruvius.
- What happens when you exaggerate proportions? Choose a part of the body and make it smaller or larger than the formulae above would indicate. What is the effect of this change? Can you think of any artists who have used this exaggeration as a technique?
Bundle the list of proportions into two groups: those involving the face and those involving use of the hand. Concentrate on only one bundle of proportions. Review the use and meaning of fractions in this context, perhaps with self-generated proportions such as "How many fingers wide is your face?"
For more information, please contact Education: School & Teacher Programs by phone at (215) 684-7580, by fax at (215) 236-4063, or by e-mail at .