A voyage through 800 years of history at Clos Lucé
In the Middle Ages (1214-1471), the estate of Clos Lucé belonged to the Amboise family, who donated the fields of Le Cloux to the Cistercian nuns of Moncé, an abbey founded in Limeray, under the protection of the Lords of Amboise.
The building as it can be seen to day was built on Gallo-Roman foundations, begun under the reign of Louis XI in 1471. Given by the King to his favourite, Etienne le Loup, the Château du Cloux in Amboise was then surrounded by fortifications. The manor was bought by Charles VIII on July 2, 1490 and became a hunting lodge for the kings of France.
The King transformed the old medieval fortress into a place of leisure and hunting, and built an oratory, a jewel of Gothic architecture, for his wife Queen Anne of Brittany. The young Duke of Angouleme, the future François I, stayed there regularly.
At the end of the 17th century, the Château du Cloux was renamed Clos Lucé. It then passed into the hands of the Amboise family, who saved it from destruction during the French revolution. It became the property of the Saint-Bris family in 1854.
Immerse yourself in the history of France at Clos Lucé
1471: Louis XI gave the estate of Le Cloux to a former kitchen servant, Étienne le Loup, who built the Château du Cloux in brick and tufa stone. He also constructed one of the most beautiful dovecotes in France. You can almost hear the flapping of the wings of the thousand doves it once housed.
1490: Le Clos Lucé became a pleasure residence for the kings of France. Charles VIII built a chapel there for his young wife Queen Anne of Brittany who came to pray and mourn those of her children who had died at an early age. The room is decorated with four frescoes, including an Annunciation made by apprentices of Leonardo. Above the door, the Virgin of Light, "Virgo Lucis" is said to have given her name to Clos Lucé.
1516-1519: François I and Louise de Savoie invited Leonardo da Vinci to Amboise. King François I, fascinated by Leonardo's talent, named him "First painter, engineer and architect of the King". He gave Clos Lucé, near the Royal Château d'Amboise to Leonardo, to be his home. The National Archives of Paris have a certificate of payment which mentions the pension paid by François I to Leonardo da Vinci "To Master Lyenard de Vince, an Italian painter, the sum of 2000 écus soleil, for his pension for two years"
Leonardo stayed at Clos Lucé manor for the last three years of his life
While there, he worked on many projects for the King of France, surrounded by his apprentices. He received distinguished guests such as the Cardinal of Aragon, many ambassadors and his Italian artist friends, such as Dominique de Cortone, known as El Boccador, the future architect of Chambord.
An underground tunnel linking Clos Lucé to the Château d'Amboise allowed the two men to meet daily. The first part of the gallery is still visible. After ten years of fascinating exchanges between Leonardo da Vinci and three kings of France, Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I, the Italian Master died on May 2, 1519 in his room at Clos Lucé.
Leonardo da Vinci's journey through the Alps in 1516
In the autumn of 1516, faced with the fierce competition of talented young artists of the Italian Renaissance such as Raphael and Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci accepted the invitation of the King of France and, at the age of 64, crossed the Alps on a mule with a number of his apprentices, including Francesco Melzi and Battista de Villanis, his faithful Milanese servant.
He brought three of his masterpieces with him in his baggage - The Mona Lisa, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist. He also brought his notebooks, sketches, drawings, and manuscripts, later collected in the codices, now scattered throughout the world.
The Mona Lisa at Clos Lucé
According to the testimony of the Secretary of the Cardinal of Aragon visiting the Clos Lucé, there was "a painting of a lady from Florence, painted naturally, on the order of the late Julien de Médicis". Produced between 1503 and 1514, this painting illustrates Leonardo da Vinci's famous sfumato technique, with its blurred contours.
He who orients himself by the stars does not turn with the Earth
You can imagine Leonard living and working as you walk inside...
Leonardo's room overlooks the Royal Chatuea d'Amboise. It is within his walls that he wrote his will, leaving his manuscripts, sketchbooks and drawings to his beloved apprentice, Francesco Melzi. He died in his room on May 2, 1519. The room of Marguerite de Navarre, the eldest sister of François I, has been completely restored and furnished in the style of the XVIth century. His portrait, by François Clouet, the King's official painter, is displayed in one of the windows.
The oratory of Anne of Brittany, wife of Charles VIII, is decorated with four frescoes, including an Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci's apprentices. Above the door, the Virgin of Light, "Virgo Lucis", is said to have given its name to the Castle: Le Clos Lucé.
The painter's studio, on the ground floor of the building, has been restored in the style of a typical Renaissance Bottega. In the library, facsimiles of works housed in the Institut de France can be ssen, alongside an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. An audiovisual production in the bureau allows visitors to meet the ghost of Leonardo in person!