Leonardo da Vinci and France

Castle of Clos Lucé

Le Château du Clos Lucé, his home from 1516 to 1519

The home of Leonardo da Vinci 1516 – 1519
In the Autumn of 1516, Leonardo da Vinci arrived at the Château du Clos Lucé, his only known residence. Aged 64, he undertook his final journey, coming from Italy to settle in France. From Rome, he brought the entirety of his notebooks and sketches as well as three of his masterpieces: "The Virgin and child with St. Anne", "St. John the Baptist" and the "Mona Lisa." These works still remain in France, now housed at the Louvre museum.

Summer residence of the kings of France since 1490, and of Charles VII, the Manoir du Cloux, today known by the name Château du Clos Lucé, was offered to da Vinci to use by François I in 1516.

The coat of arms, on white tuffeau stone from the Loire valley, shows three fleurs de Lys - or Lilies - which was the symbol of the French monarchy.

The invitation of François I, Leonardo da Vinci "the King's first painter, architect and engineer"
François I expressed a profound respect for da Vinci, who he called "my father". The great craftsman and sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, who had also come from Italy, said: "King François, who was so taken with his great qualities, loved to listen to him talk and was to hardly ever be found apart from him..."

Da Vinci attributed a great deal of importance to light in his works: "Look at light and admire its beauty. Close your eyes, and then look again: What you saw is no longer there, and what you will see later has not yet come to be."

On October 10, 1517, da Vinci received a visit from Cardinal d'Aragon at Clos Lucé. According to an account from Antonio Beatis, secretary to the cardinal, Leonardo presented him with a painting of "a Florentine lady painted from life at the request of the late Giuliano de' Medici."

François I: "No man possessed such a knowledge of painting, sculpture or architecture as Leonardo, but the same goes for philosophy. He was a great philosopher."

Louise de Savoie, mother of François I, contributed a great deal the presence of Leonardo da Vinci in France. She was one of the patrons of a tapestry replica of da Vinci's "Last Supper".

The only home of Leonardo da Vinci
From 1516 to 1519, Leonardo lived here and worked on many projects for the king of France: hydraulic town planning, the ideal Château project in Romorantin, or even royal celebrations. The Château du Clos Lucé is his only known home, other than his birthplace in Italy. He was free there to continue with his research on anatomy, floods and botany.

Oral tradition tells that a tunnel connected the Château Royal d'Amboise and the Château du Clos Lucé. François I often used it to visit da Vinci because he admired the depth of his knowledge.

In Amboise, François I entrusted Leonardo with organizing royal celebrations.
Notably, he created the mechanical lion for the Argentan celebration. When the king struck it, it released lilies which fell to the monarch's feet.

During the Renaissance, the rampart walk became an Italian-style gallery, where the king and his court took in the celebrations that Leonardo had organized at their request.

On June 19, 1518, a celebration was organized by da Vinci to thank the kind for his good deeds. He invented an apparatus which mimicked the path of the stars: a marquee was set up and over it a blue-painted canvas was placed, depicting the sky with the planets, the sun, the moon, and the twelve signs of the zodiac.

"As a well-spent day brings contented sleep, so a well-spent life brings contented death."
Leonardo da Vinci

In the council chambers. Leonardo da Vinci received his distinguished guests. Notably, he welcomed François I, the nobility of the kingdom, and ambassadors and artists who came to see him.

On April 23, 1519, Leonardo wrote his will, bequeathing his manuscripts, his sketchbooks and his sketches to his beloved disciple, Francesco Melzi.
He died in his bed at the Château du Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519, aged 67.

Château du Clos Lucé
Credits: Story

Château du Clos Lucé

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