Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Da Vinci's last home

The Chateau Clos Luce was built in 1471 on 12th century foundations. The main building has an octagonal tower with elegant buildings in pink brick and tufa stone. It's handily located 400m from the Royal Chateau Amboise. Le Clos Luce was bought by Charles VIII (the one who died from hitting his head) in 1490 and for two hundred years it was a royal residence and summer residence for te Kings of France. despite all the famous personnages who lived in or visited Le Clos Luce it is Leonardo da Vinci who is most famously linked to it.

King Francois 1st greatly admired Leonardo and appointed him First Painter, Architect and Engineer of the King. The residence was given to him to use as well as a handsome allowance of 700 gold ecrus a year. His works were financed and all he had to do in return was to talk to the King. This became a daily occurrence. Leonardo lived happily here for the final three years of his life. He is thought to have contributed to the design of the spiral staircase at Chambord. He certainly designed wondrous celebrations for the king's events.

Leonardo was 64 when he left Italy, having competed artistically with Michelangelo and Raphael, created war machines for Cesare Borgia, the duke of Milan and other italian nobles who were constantly warring amongst themselves or against Charles VIII of France

He travelled by mule over the Alps with some disciples and he brought with him three of his favourite masterpeices in his leather saddlebags. They were Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, Saint John the Baptist, and La Joconde (the Mona Lisa) which had been commissioned by the late Giuliano de Medici, the original of which now hangs in The Louvre. Da Vinci died at home on 2nd May 1519.

The first part of his home you come to is a climb up the watchtower, the last surviving piece of medieval architeacture here, the rest is renaissance. You walk along a loggia and arrive at Leonardo's bedroom.

He loved the view of the royal castle of his friend Francois I. His drawing of this view is in the Windsor collection. The bedroom contains  a fireplace with the royal arms, a tapestry, a mother of pearl cross said to have belonged to Mary Stuart, the carved canopied bed  with red drapes and other furniture.

There's another bedroom that belonged to Francois I's elder sister Marguerite de Navarre, containing tapestries, furniture, a four-poster bed and portraits. The terracotta floor tiles are stamped with the monogram of Marguerite of Angouleme.

In the 18th century Le Vlos Luce belonged to the Amboise family. It was skillfully saved during the revolution. The 18thC salons are rooms that were used as a studio by Leonardo because they are bathed in light.

The small salon is tastefully decorated but it's important to be aware that not all the furnishings and furniture are of Leonardo's era. Most of the contents are from the century following his death. The tapestries are like most, faded and missing most colours except green but they must have been wonderful originally. Flat-backed Louis XV chairs are upholstered with fables from la Fontaine and rosewood chests of drawers can be found.

Naturally the engineering genius of da Vinci is on display.Several rooms and much of the park are devoted to displaying his models and designs which, in many cases, would become commonplace objects in the 20th century; parachutes, powered flight, paddle boats, helicopters cars, swinging bridges. The basement is devoted to his inventions which were 500 years ahead of their time.  So inside and out there's plenty of his inventions to discover.

I gave a cursory exploration of the park that contains many models of Leonardo's inventions but JC's knees were playing up and the afternoon was wearing on so I stuck to the environs near the chateau. It's a lovely spot, quite atmospheric with lots of trees.

There's a vegie garden. Da Vinci's cook was a vegetarian cook so having a garden would have been quite important.There are plenty of facilities to make your visit comfortable with toilets and cafe eating, a souvenir shop of course. Parking is nearby but requires a short walk.


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