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Opening of the Leonardo years

5th centenary of Leonardo da Vinci’s arrival in Amboise

Published on Wednesday, May 04, 2016, 16:36

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is now universally recognised as an exceptional character. His insatiable curiosity and his creativity were noticed very early on by the great Renaissance patrons, such as François 1er who, in 1516, invited him to the Court of France in Amboise where he then ended his days.  

From 2016 to 2019, 500 years after his time in Amboise, this historic town on the banks of the Loire is dedicating a host of events to him, during which aesthetics and creativity will be the two guests of honour.

Leonardo da Vinci’s time in Amboise

After a perilous and exhausting journey for a man of 64, Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Amboise where the king put at his disposal the Manoir du Cloux (today called Clos Lucé), very close the royal Château, with one sole command, “Here Leonardo, you will be free to dream, to think and to work”.

He accorded him the title of “first painter” and granted him an exceptional pension of seven hundred gold crowns a year.

A tireless creator

In Amboise, despite a mild paralysis in his hand, Leonardo da Vinci continued to create. He brought with him several works to which he was particularly attached, “St. John the Baptist”, “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” and of course “The Mona Lisa”. In 1518, the king probably bought these three masterpieces. The presence of the “St Anne” was thus reported in a château chapel between 1523 and 1527. Today, these paintings are exhibited at the Louvre museum. 

Leonardo da Vinci also played a part in sumptuous celebrations and put his engineering talents to good use to give them an incomparable splendour. In 1518, to mark the baptism of the dauphin prince and the marriage of the Pope’s nephew, Lorenzo II de Medici (1492-1519), Duc d’Urbino, he created several decors and recreated, with a great many special effects, a battlefield and the taking of an Italian town to celebrate the French king’s victories.

His creations during his final years in France did not end there because the king tasked him with drawing up ambitious waterways plans. In particular, he envisaged the creation of a canal linking the Loire and the Saône in order make travel easier between his adopted region, the Loire, and his native Tuscany. The king also commissioned from him plans for a palace and a new town at Romorantin. The project was grandiose but in the end it was never completed. 

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