The buzz word of the moment, and not only amongst art circles, is Leonardo Da Vinci! With the sell-out exhibition at the National Gallery, we wondered whether you knew about his French connections.
In the autumn of 1516 Leonardo da Vinci accepted an invitation from the French court and, at the age of 64, he crossed the Alps on the back of a mule to join Francis I at Amboise. His travelling companions were his disciples – Francesco Melzi, his favourite assistant, and Battista de Villanis, his faithful Milanese servant.
Leonardo da Vinci settled in at Le Clos Lucé, a mere 300 metres from the Royal Castle of Amboise and worked as an engineer and architect, drawing up plans for a model château for François I at Romorantin and allegedly inspiring the spiral staircase at Chambord Castle. He even had plans to connect the Loire Valley with the Lyon region by a system of canals running across France. Coming back to his artistic nature he was a producer, organizing wondrous celebrations for the Court, he was also a philosopher and a fashion designer, inspiring the court which surrounded him.
Leonardo brought with him to his final residence, in leather saddlebags of his charge, three of his favourite paintings. According to the account of the secretary of Cardinal Aragon, whilst on a visit to Le Clos Lucé, he saw “a painting of a Florentine lady painted from life on the orders of the late Giuliano de’ Medici”.
Painted between 1503 and 1514, Mona Lisa illustrates da Vinci’s famous “sfumato” technique (shaded transition). The remaining two canvases in his precious cargo were The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist.
The chateau today houses an impressive collection of his models and drawings, illustrating his talents as an inventor and engineer. My colleague Jacqueline, who was there this autumn says, “It was definitely an emotional visit, a sort of timeless journey.” She was lucky enough to be welcomed by the Clos Lucé’s director François Saint Bris whose family have been the keepers of this treasure trove for 150 years, and who have devoted their lives to recreating Leonardo’s home.
If you’d like to experience it for yourself and discover Da Vinci’s Gallic side, take a look at their website. http://www.vinci-closluce.com/
Have you ever been to the Clos Lucé? Have you seen the National Gallery’s exhibition? Or maybe you’re just a Da vinci expert? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.