Leonardo da Vinci arrived in Amboise in 1516 after a long journey from the north of the Italian peninsula.
He had left Milan to join the court of the young King François Ier. The sovereign had made strenuous efforts to convince the artist to accept his invitation. François made the Manoir du Cloux (today known as Clos Lucé) available to Leonardo da Vinci, with staff and a comfortable income (accounts refer to 700 gold sovereigns annually, a considerable sum).
An artist famous across borders
It must be said that Leonardo da Vinci’s reputation was already known far beyond Italian cities. His works inspired admiration and his work in science, civil engineering, the art of warfare, and music… met with widespread enthusiasm. For the king of France, he was, therefore, a ‘recruit’ of choice for the prestige of his court. His predecessor, Louis XII, had already started negotiations with Leonardo da Vinci… in vain.
An opportunity to be seized
Why did François succeed where Louis had failed? Quite simply, because in the interim, Leonardo’s circumstances had significantly shifted. Without his last patron, who had just died, hardly appreciated by the great purveyor of commissions that was the Pope and shaken by competition from new artists (Michelangelo, Raphael)… Leonardo, at the age of 64, needed to safeguard his future. Therefore, he could not refuse the French offer.
In 1516, the artist joined the French court, which was then installed at the Royal Château of Amboise, a château that François Ier particularly favoured because he had spent a large part of his childhood there. Therefore, it was no coincidence that he chose to install Leonardo a few hundred metres away, in close proximity, at Clos Lucé. It is more than likely that the master was solemnly presented to the court members in one of the château’s staterooms with the excitement we can well imagine.
Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life in Amboise, in the king’s service. He died on 2nd May 1519 in his manor, Clos Lucé, and according to his wishes, he was buried at the Royal Château of Amboise.