Once You Have Tasted Flight You Will Walk the Earth With Your Eyes Turned Skyward

Leonardo da Vinci? John H. Secondari? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous Renaissance figure Leonardo da Vinci has been given credit for a remark about the experience of flight:

Once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward.

How could Leonardo know something like this? I am skeptical of this ascription. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: In 1965 an educational film titled “I, Leonardo da Vinci” with a script written by John H. Secondari was created. The audio track included the thoughts and ideas of Leonardo presented as exposition for the viewer. This speculative synthesized material was authored by Secondari based on biographical information about Leonardo’s life. Professor Carlo Pedretti of the University of California, Los Angeles acted as the consultant historian. One scene in the film depicted Leonardo concluding that humans supplemented with bat-like wings would be able to fly: 1

I became convinced that man too can fly. I set out to build him wings. For the bird is a living machine as all living bodies are machines, marvelously designed for natural movement. The bird is adapted to the laws of the wind and the air. It moves effortlessly. It soars. It curves. It flows.

Secondari’s fanciful version of Leonardo da Vinci dreams of constructing such wings and encouraging a novice flyer to jump off the edge of a precipice:

At the edge spring unafraid into the void. The current holds you. The earth stretches limitless below you. Be not afraid. Your wings are your salvation even should you plummet; the hurts will be slight, I know.

And once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward; for there you have been, and there you would return.

Researchers have been unable to find the quotation above in the writings of Leonardo; hence, it probably was constructed by Secondari. The words embodied Secondari’s notion of Leonardo contemplating the wistful thoughts of an imaginary neophyte flyer who had successfully employed the wings he had sketched.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Once You Have Tasted Flight You Will Walk the Earth With Your Eyes Turned Skyward


  1. 1965 Copyright, Series: The Saga of Western Man, Film Title: I, Leonardo da Vinci, Film Writer: John H. Secondari, Film Producers: John H. Secondari and Helen Jean Rogers, Reel Number: 2, Quotation Timestamp: 16 minutes 20 seconds, Publisher: CRM Films 2215 Faraday Ave, Carlsbad. California. Summary: Explores Leonardo’s intellectual and artistic interests and talents. Depicts the Renaissance period. (Internet Archive archive.org) link

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

Leonardo da Vinci? Clare Boothe Luce? Leonard Thiessen? Elizabeth Hillyer? William Gaddis? Eleanor All? Apple Computer Company? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following aphorism has often been attributed to the brilliant Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Strangely, I have been unable to find any solid source for this ascription. Would you please explore this saying?

Quote Investigator: Several researchers have been unable to locate this adage in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. The earliest attribution to da Vinci located by QI appeared in 2000. Hence, there is no substantive evidence supporting the connection at this time. Perhaps future exploration will uncover a citation in Italian.

The earliest strong match found by QI employed a different wording to communicate a comparable idea. Clare Boothe Luce was a successful playwright who became one of the first female U.S. Ambassadors. In 1931 she published a novel titled “Stuffed Shirts” which contained the following passage. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1

“Yes,” continued Mrs. Gunn, patting Lucile’s hand condescendingly. “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.”

A solid match using the same vocabulary was published in a Sunday newspaper magazine by an art critic named Leonard Thiessen in 1946. The prominent French sculptor Charles Despiau had created a work depicting the head of the well-known model Maria Lani. This artwork was “one of the most cherished treasures” of Frank Crowninshield who had been the influential long-time editor of “Vanity Fair” magazine. Thiessen used the adage when he commented on the graceful sculpture: 2

Perhaps Mr. Crowninshield’s preference for the Lani head, by the simple peasant sculptor who was his close friend, proves that the ultimate in sophistication is simplicity.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication


  1. 1931, Stuffed Shirts by Clare Boothe Brokaw (Clare Boothe Luce), Chapter 17: “Snobs, New Style”, Quote Page 239, Published by Horace Liveright, New York. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1946 March 3, Omaha World Herald, Section: Sunday World-Herald Magazine, European Intrusion at Morrill Hall by Leonard Thiessen, Quote Page 17C, Column 4 and 5, Omaha, Nebraska. (GenealogyBank)