From 1517 to 1518, at Le Clos Lucé in Amboise, Leonardo da Vinci soon designed and arranged magical shows and extraordinary spectacles, becoming a master in the art of special effects. As a result he became the grand organiser of royal festivities.
In 1517, in Argentan, a celebration was organised to mark the visit of Francis I to his sister, Marguerite of Angoulême. A letter written by Anastasio Turrioni to Federico Gonzaga, hostage at the French court in 1516 and 1517, gives a description of it: "In the street there was a ferocious lion. A hermit gave to his Majesty a rod, with which he struck the lion three times, which opened: inside all was turquoise, with in the middle a fleur-de-lys." Few of da Vinci's drawings allude to this prodigious automaton. However, as Giovan Paolo Lomazzo and Michelangelo Buonarroti suggest, this mechanical lion that walked towards the king and whose belly then split open, spilling out fleurs-de-lys, does appear to have come from the imagination of Leonardo da Vinci.