FACT CHECK: Did Leonardo Da Vinci Say, ‘Simplicity Is The Ultimate Sophistication’?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

A post shared on Facebook claims that Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci once stated, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" – Leonardo da Vinci

Posted by I Love WWII Planes on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Verdict: False

The Daily Caller News Foundation found no evidence that da Vinci ever said or wrote this phrase.

Fact Check:

Da Vinci, creator of the “Mona Lisa” and other famous Renaissance works, was more than just a painter; he was also a scientist, inventor and military engineer.

He left voluminous notebooks filled with sketches, scientific observations and musings on the natural world. But nowhere in these notebooks, which were edited and translated by German art scholar Jean Paul Richter, is the quote ascribed to him in the Facebook post to be found.

“I’m very suspicious of it because I’ve never seen anything like it in Leonardo’s writings,” Ross King, author of “Leonardo and the Last Supper,” said in an email to TheDCNF. “I did a search in scanned copies of both vols. 1 and 2 … and neither ‘simplicity’ nor ‘sophistication’ appears in either; and even the word ‘simple’ doesn’t appear in any context where it’s juxtaposed to complexity. These facts, in my view, disqualify the quote, because it’s very difficult to imagine where it would have come from if not the Richter edition.”

The website Quote Investigator also found no evidence that da Vinci authored the quote. It traced a version of the phrase to the 1931 book “Stuffed Shirts” by Clare Boothe Luce. A character in the novel at one point states, “I have resolved to grow old, naturally and gracefully, content in the knowledge that the greatest intellects are the homeliest ones, and that the height of sophistication is simplicity.”

The phrase, as written in the Facebook post, was also featured without attribution in a 1977 Apple computer brochure.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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