In the foregoing pages I have endeavoured, though necessarily briefly, to lay before you an account of the labours of the numerous workers in the field of proportion. It remains for me to point out, so far as they are known, what exactly are the proportions of the human body, and how and under what circumstances they undergo modification.
Before doing so, however, it may be well to call attention to two points which strike one forcibly in reviewing the history of the subject. The first is, that the credit of commencing, and for many years carrying on this study, is due to artists, and not to men of science. Long before Anthropometry as a branch of Anthropology had taken its place as an object of scientific study, artists in many countries had devoted their time and attention to endeavouring to ascertain and lay down for their own guidance, and for that of their pupils, a law of proportion for the human body. But when the scientific study of the measurements of the human body was commenced, an important difference between the methods which were then adopted and those of the preceding workers at once became apparent, and this is the second point upon which I wish to dwell. What the artist observers, very naturally, had chiefly striven after, was grace and elegance; what the scientific observer sought was absolute accuracy. The artist had in some cases, as in that of Sir Joshua Reynolds, contented himself with giving a poetic, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say a purely aesthetic explanation of the proportions of the body, or in other cases he was led away by his artistic feelings into giving rules for the construction of impossible or non-existent forms.
And in this they were followed by some of the writers representing the science of their day. I have a curious book by William Salmon, the author of an English edition of 'Diemerbrock's Anatomy,' himself a professor of physic, which is entitled 'Polygraphice, or the Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Washing, Varnishing, (Gilding, Colouring, l>veing, Beautifying and Perfuming.' It also contains incongruously enough 'The one hundred and twelve ( Chymical Arcanums of Petrus Johannes Faber, a most learned and eminent Physician, translated out of Latin into English, and an Abstract of Choice Chymical Preparations, fitted for Vulgar Use, for curing most Diseases incident to Humane Bodies.' It was evidently a popular book, and one of which the author was proud, for the copy in my possession is stated to be ' The fifth Edition; Enlarged with above a thousand considerable Additions; Adorned with XXV. Copper Sculptures; the like never yet extant.' In his fourteenth chapter, Salmon gives an account of human proportions, to which he adds directions how to make a 'side way head,' and how to describe the 'fore-right face.' He commences by stating that the length of an upright body is equal to eight times the length of the face or head, thus falling into the error of the ancient writers.
But he afterwards proceeds to give instructions for the proportion of a man of ten faces, the face being the same as what we now call the head, since the first of his ten equal divisions begins at the top of the head and reaches to the root of the chin. He also gives the proportions of a man of eight faces, of a young man of nine faces, and finally the proportion of a body of seven heads, which last I shall quote, since I think it affords a key to the idea which permeated this custom of drawing figures of different proportions. He says, 'The length from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot is seven times the length of the head; this is a large head, and all the members and limbs are answerable to it - viz., strong, sturdy, and raised. Yet the ancient Grecians painted only the goddess Vesta with this proportion, it being grave and matron-like. But you may give it to any other goddess which has any kind of grave or solid resemblance, as also to the more staid and ancient sort of women, to Sibylls, Prophetesses and such like, whom to draw with a slender and delicate proportion would be a great oversight - as also to draw a prophet with the proportions of a young man.' Here we see the conventionalism which was, I think, in some measure accountable for these unnatural canons of stature, the same conventionalism which rendered it necessary for certain characters to be played on the stage in certain conventional dresses, regardless of whether such dresses were correct or not.
From this spirit of conventionalism, art has been by degrees emancipated, and as this has taken place, there has sprung up a greater desire for accuracy of details anatomical or otherwise.
I shall now proceed to examine in order the proportions of each part of the body, giving in connection with each what appears to me to be the best established opinion. I shall also mention the differences existing between the two sexes, and between various races, leaving the question of the changes due to growth and age to be dealt with in a subsequent section. In this part I shall take the measurements of Topinard as my standard of comparison, since they appear to me to be the most careful and complete.