Visit of the château
It was on an invitation from François I that Leonardo da Vinci left Italy and came to live at the Château of Clos Lucé where he spent the last three years of his life.
The king of France treated Leonardo with honour and named him the "first painter, architect and engineer". He put his house at Leonardo's disposal as well as the princely pension of 1000 golden ecus per year, only asking in exchange the pleasure of hearing him converse (which was almost a daily occurrence). Encompassed by the great affection of the king and his sister Margaret of Navarre, Leonardo was free to dream, think, and work.
Leonardo worked on numerous projects for the king and organised some marvellous fêtes (celebrations) for the court. He inspired everyone around him with reflection and fashion. After having written that "no being disappears into the void" while considering "the certitude of his death and the incertitude of its hour", he drew up his testament and recommended that God "Sovereign, Master and Lord" have his soul. On the 2nd of May in 1519, Leonardo da Vinci passed away. It is said that he cried on his deathbed for having offended the Creator and the men in this world for not having worked at his art as he should have. Francesco Melzi, Leonardo’s favourite disciple, wrote in a letter dating the 15th of June, 1519 addressing Leonardo’s brothers: "He left this present life well prepared with all of the sacraments of the church".
The visit begins with a climb up the watch tower which gives the visitor access to the inside of the residence.
Leonardo da Vinci’s bedchamber
With its fireplace bearing the arms of France, the Renaissance bed, the Italian secret cabinets…
From his bedchamber’s window Leonardo da Vinci would gaze in contemplation at the Royal Château of his friend François I.
Leonardo remained very active, as can be seen from his numerous drawings and sketches dating from the French period of his life at Amboise.The master noted by hand his first date in France on his collection of pages, indicating he had just arrived at Cloux, Amboise (Jour de l’Ascension à Amboise, à Cloux,) in May of 1517.
As a court artist, Leonardo presented himself as "pittore del re" (the king’s painter). Here, he gave the last touches to the paintings he had brought with him, among which was 'Saint John the Baptist' that is now on display at the Louvre.
As an engineer and architect, Leonardo da Vinci worked by royal order on several large urbanism projects without interruption, such as: an architectural project for an immense royal palace, and the design of a new town in Romorantin.
The Grand Renaissance Hall
Leonardo da Vinci would welcome his illustrious visitors in this room where there is 15th century decoration of tapestries and Renaissance objects: cathedra, chests, bust of François I…
Leonardo da Vinci’s kitchen
The central piece of the kitchen, where you will find Mathurine, is a high stone fireplace which is still intact. You will also find round, ornate copper dishes with scenes from the Old Testament, a "caquetoire" (conversation chair), and tapestries from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Downstairs you will meet Leonardo the engineer. These four rooms are devoted to the master’s inventions. Here you will find 40 fabulous machines that have been made according to Leonardo's original drawings using only materials that would have been available in those days: the first swing bridge, the first tank, the first car, the paddle boat, the flying machine, the ancestor to the plane, the helicopter, the parachute…
The Manor of Cloux, now called the Château of Clos Lucé, was built in 1471 on 12th century foundations by Estienne le Loup, an assistant of King Louis XI. The royal house was organised around the octagonal tower on the corner of a building which houses a spiral staircase. Around this, two buildings were erected at right-angles. The elegant red-brick and tufa facade bears the architectural stamp of the 15th century. Acquired by Charles VIII in 1490, Clos Lucé became a royal residence for 200 years. Louise de Savoie brought up her two young children here: the future François I and his sister Margaret of Navarre.
A distinguished visitor
The greatest of all of those who crossed the rib-vaulted postern of the château, at least in terms of genius, was Leonardo da Vinci. In 1516, when he was over 60 years old, Leonardo left Italy. He left nearly all of his works behind in Milano, Florence, and Rome, but crossed the Alps on the back of a mule carrying with him three of his major works: Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, the Mona Lisa, and Saint John the Baptist, as well as numerous notebooks with sketches and various studies.
On the 23rd of April 1519, Leonardo, while considering the "certitude of his death and the incertitude of the hour", wrote his will with the help of Maître Guillaume Boreau, a notary of the royal court.
Considering that "no being disappears into the void", Leonardo passed away in his bedchamber at the Château of Clos Lucé on the 2nd of May, 1519 at the age of sixty-seven, after having received the last sacraments from the church.
François I, overwhelmed with sadness, pronounced these simple words: "For each one of us, this man’s death provokes grief, as it is impossible for life to make another of his kind".
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