Leonardo da Vinci

A modern day genius

2019 will mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, a timeless genius who still fascinates us.

Leonard da Vinci in France

After having excelled in all fields of art and science in Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was invited to Amboise by François I in 1516. He spent the last three years of his life there sketching architectural projects and organizing dazzling celebrations for the king and his court.

Although Leonardo da Vinci was born in Tuscany in 1452, his exceptional talent for the arts and sciences quickly led him to travel throughout Italy. Student of the great painter and sculptor Andrea del Verrochio in Florence, he was noticed by the Medicis who sent him to Milan in 1482, where he carried out his first major architectural works for Duke Ludovic Sforza.

Everything Leonard did, he did it with genius. A jack-of-all-trades, he is interested in clocks, cranes and other urban planning or hydraulic development plans, while of course continuing his artistic work. It is in Milan that he paints The Last Supper, probably his most famous fresco..

"Free to dream, think and work"

Continuing his career in Venice, he also stayed in Mantua, Rome and Bologna, where he pursued painting, anatomical studies and scientific experiments, among other things. The Mona Lisa, which he painted between 1503 and 1506, would not leave him until the end of his days. And when, disappointed by the small tasks entrusted to him, Leonard left Rome to work in France, it was with his Mona Lisa that he moved to the Cloux d'Amboise mansion, now called Le Clos Lucé.

François I's intentions were very specific when he invited the Florentine genius to Touraine. If he wished, as a true patron, to leave him "free to dream, think and work", he named him "the king's first painter, first engineer and first architect", because he intended to organize such extraordinary celebrations as those of the Medici court.

Leonardo da Vinci thus became "Master of Entertainment", staging the court's receptions, which were at that time of unprecedented splendour. For these occasions, he creates automatons, breathtaking scenographies (such as his reconstruction of the Battle of Marignan with 10,000 costumed people, or his celestial vault traversed by the movement of the stars), or sumptuous water jets that amaze his noble audience.

Leonardo da Vinci's latest monumental projects

François I, fascinated by Vinci, whom he considers to be a father, also entrusted him with larger projects. The artist's talent for architecture and engineering was put to good use: he imagined the construction of a new palace in Romorantin, requiring the diversion of a river, made the first sketches of a canal between the Loire and the Saône, and inspired the famous double spiral staircase in Chambord.

Three years after his arrival in France, Leonardo da Vinci, ill and weakened, died at the Château du Clos Lucé on May 2, 1519, at the age of 67. He is buried in the Château d'Amboise, his bones now under the tombstone of the Saint-Hubert chapel. Although he lived only a short time in France, Leonardo da Vinci has left his mark on the history of the Loire Valley and continues, almost five centuries after his death, to make young and old alike dream.