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File:Parmigianino 004.jpg
Madonna with the Long Neck, by Parmigianino. As in other Mannerist works, the proportions of the body - here the neck - are exaggerated for artistic effect.

While there is significant variation in anatomical proportions between people, there are many references to body proportions that are intended to be canonical, either in art, measurement, or medicine.

Basics of human proportionsEdit

It is important in figure drawing to draw the human figure in proportion. Though there are sutbtle differences between individuals, human proportions fit within a fairly standard range, though artists have historically tried to create idealised standards. In figure drawing, the basic unit of measurement is the 'head', which is the distance from the top of the head to the chin. This unit of measurement is reasonably standard, and has long been used by artists to establish the proportions of the human figure.

The proportions used in figure drawing are:

  • An average person, is generally 7-and-a-half heads tall (including the head).
  • An ideal figure, used when aiming for an impression of nobility or grace, is drawn at 8 heads tall.
  • An heroic figure, used in the heroic for the depiction of gods and superheroes, is eight-and-a-half heads tall. Most of the additional length comes from a bigger chest and longer legs.

Western IdealEdit

File:Jessica Alba Face Proportions.png
A University of Toronto study found that ideal facial proportions were close to the average of all female profiles.[1]

Leg-to-body ratioEdit

A study using Polish participants by Sorokowski found 5% longer legs than an individual used as a reference was considered most attractive.[2] The study concluded this preference might stem from the influence of leggy runway models.[3] The Sorokowski study was criticized for using a picture of the same person with digitally altered leg lengths which Marco Bertamini felt were unrealistic.[4]

Another study using British and American participants, found "mid-ranging" leg-to-body ratios to be most ideal.[5]

A study by Swami et al. of American men and women showed a preference for men with legs as long as the rest of their body and women with 40% longer legs than the rest of their body[6] The researcher concluded that this preference might be influenced by American culture where long leg women are portrayed as more attractive.[6] The Swami et al. study was criticized for using a picture of the same person with digitally altered leg lengths which Marco Bertamini felt were unrealistic.[4] Bertamini also criticized the Swami study for only changing the leg length while keeping the arm length constant.[4] Bertamini's own study which used stick figures mirrored Swami's study, however, by finding a preference for leggier women.[4]

Muscle men and thin womenEdit

A 1999 study found that "the (action) figures have grown much more muscular over time, with many contemporary figures far exceeding the muscularity of even the largest human bodybuilders," reflecting an American cultural ideal of a super muscular man.[7] Also, female dolls show reflect the cultural ideal of thinness in women.[7]

Large peopleEdit

American comic book heroes should either be 8,[8][9] 8 and 3/4,[10] 9,[9] 15,[9] or 20 heads tall.[9] The small size of the head relative to the body is done to make them appear "heroic"[10], "more powerful"[9] and have a greater "artistic effect"[8].

Typically, male superheroes in American comics have "strong" and "angular" jaws, with their eyes located at the "halfway" mark of their face and their eyes, one eye's width apart from each other.[9] Women superheroes in American comics have "full lips".[9]

Japanese IdealEdit

Japanese ideals for body proportions differ from Western ideals. The most prominent example of this is moe, characteristics of which include large eyes, small noses, tall irises, thin limbs, large heads, and neotenized faces.[11] Manga characters are usually sized to be 5.7 to 6.5 heads tall.[11][12][13] Another example of the Japanese ideal is the concept of the gracilized man: in contemporary Japanese society, bishōnen, literally "beautiful boys", are "delicate", "svelte" and "beautiful" males who are drawn to appeal to "adolescent girls".[14]

Leonardo da VinciEdit

File:Portale Leonardo da Vinci.png
Vitruvian Man, by Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo da Vinci believed that the ideal human proportions were governed by the harmonious proportions that he believed governed the universe[15] such that the ideal man would fit cleanly into a circle as in his famed "Vitruvian man" drawing.[15]

Bibliography Edit

  • Gottfried Bammes: Studien zur Gestalt des Menschen. Verlag Otto Maier GmbH, Ravensburg 1990, ISBN 3-473-48341-9.

See alsoEdit


  1. includeonly>Fiona Macrae. "Skin deep: Beautiful faces have Miss Average proportions", 'Daily Mail', 27th December 2009. Retrieved on 2011-07-31. “All were head shots of the same person with different distances from eyes to mouth or between the eyes. She was at her most attractive when the space between her pupils was just under half, or 46 per cent, of the width of her face from ear to ear. The other perfect dimension was when the distance between her eyes and mouth was just over a third, or 36 per cent, of the overall length of her face from hairline to chin. ...”
  2. includeonly>Sorokowski P., Pawlowski B.. "Adaptive preferences for leg length in a potential partner", Evolution and Human Behavior, Jan. 3, 2008, pp. 86–91. Retrieved on 2010-03-29.
  3. Sorokowski, P. (2010). Attactiveness of Legs Length in Poland and Great Britain. In Human Ecology. 31(3):148
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Bertamini, M. (2009). THE EFFECT OF LEG LENGTH ON PERCEIVED ATTRACTIVENESS OF SIMPLIFIED STIMULI. In Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology. 3(3).
  5. Frederick, D. A. et al. (2010). The influence of leg-to-body ratio (LBR) on judgments of female physical attractiveness: Assessments of computer-generated images varying in LBR In Body Image. 7(1):51-55
  6. 6.0 6.1 Swami, V. et al. (2006). The leg-to-body ratio as a human aesthetic criterion. In Body Image. 3.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Pope, Harrison, Roberto Olivardia,Amanda Gruber, John Borowiecki (1998-05-26). Evolving Ideals of Male Body Image as Seen Through Action Toys. International Journal of Eating Disorders 26 (1).
  8. 8.0 8.1 Chrisholm, H. (1910). Encyclopedia Britannica.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Hart, C. How to Draw Comic Book Heroes and Villains. Watson-Guptill, USA.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lee, S. (1984). How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Fireside, USA.
  11. 11.0 11.1 電撃萌王 Special May 1, 2006, No. 127 Vol.11 No.8, Media, p. 104 ~ 105
  12. Crilley, M. Manga Body Proportions. Youtube. Accessed May 2, 2011, from
  13. Crilley, M. How To Draw Manga Female Body Proportions (Talia from "Brody's Ghost"). Youtube. Accessed May 2, 2011, from
  14. Buckley (2002). Encyclopedia of Contemporary Japanese Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 188, 522, 553. ISBN 0415143446.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Universal Leonardo: Leonardo Da Vinci Online › Essays." Universal Leonardo: Leonardo Da Vinci Online › Welcome to Universal Leonardo. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

{{EnWP|Body proportions]]

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