When Leonardo da Vinci arrived to Amboise in the Loire Valley of central France in 1516, he was accompanied by several of his disciples. They included his faithful servant, Battista de Villanis and Count Francesco Melzi, who would play a prominent role as executor and principal heir upon da Vini’s death. Leonardo carried three paintings to France—The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (now displayed at the National Gallery, London), Saint Jean Baptiste (now displayed at the Louvre, Paris), and perhaps, the most famous painting ever, the Mona Lisa (also displayed at the Louvre, Paris).
In December, 1615, King Francis I had offered Leonardo da Vinci the position of “The King’s First Painter, Engineer and Architect.” Leonardo accepted and received a handsome pension and use of Manoir du Cloux, currently, Château du Clos Lucé, which is located only 500 meters from the Royal Château of Amboise. Francis I thought highly of Leonardo and immensely enjoyed listening to him during their almost daily chats. An underground passageway between the châteaux made their meetings much easier to attend. Leonardo would retire at the Manoir du Cloux, although he would remain busy on various projects including finishing his famed painting Saint Jean Baptiste.
On a glorious summer’s day, I was very lucky to visit the Loire Valley. If you missed it, please read my first post from this area of France, Finding Leonardo Da Vinci, My Visit to the Château d’Amboise. Now, let’s visit the Château du Clos Lucé. This is the view from inside the grounds but wait, we’re ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back outside and stand in line. We still have to pay admission.
The entrance to Clos Lucé is a short walk from the Château d’Amboise along the bustling Rue Victor Hugo. If you’re following my journey on the Camino de Santiago, you may be interested in knowing that the Chermin vers Compostelle follows this very road.
Looking at the entrance from inside the grounds. The manor stood out brilliantly against the evening sky.
A Little History of the Château du Clos Lucé
As I mentioned earlier, Château du Clos Lucé was originally named Manoir du Cloux. Construction started in 1471 by Louis XI and upon completion, it was given to one of his nobles. Although small by French château standards, the manor and grounds were fortified. The Manoir du Cloux was purchased by Charles VIII in 1490 as a summer residence for the Kings of France. I’ll briefly discuss about his renowned wife, Anne de Bretagne, a little later. During this time, the fortress began its transformation into an elegant manor.
Before he was King, Francis I, then, the Duke of Angoulême, along with his older sister, Marguerite de Navarre, lived at the Manoir du Cloux for part of their childhood. During this time, the manor became a vibrant and lively residence with visits from various artists, writers, and architects. Leonardo da Vinci lived there between 1616 and 1619 and afterward, there began a period of downfall at the manor, with various tenants over the years—many of whom were of ill repute. In 1660, the name was changed to the current Château du Clos Lucé. Today, the Château is a listed monument and has undergone extensive renovations to bring the Renaissance look when Leonardo da Vinci lived there. For more information, please visit the official website for Château du Clos Lucé.
The entrance is on the lower right of the tower. I took this photo upon my exit but it was much busier with a lineup when I entered.
This is the Renaissance Great Hall, the reception room used for entertaining.
The small salon adorned in beautiful furniture with so many pieces, it would warrant a post in itself.
One of the exquisite tapestries in the bedroom of Marguerite de Navarre.
This is the main bedroom with a Renaissance canopied bed. From the window, Leonardo da Vinci enjoyed a view of Château d’Amboise. It was even the subject of one of his drawings. In this room, on May 2, 1519, Leonardo da Vinci passed away. For my post on the burial site of Leonardo da Vinci, please read Where A Great Man Rests, Leonardo da Vinci at the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, Amboise.
“For each of us, the death of this man is a bereavement, since it is impossible that we will ever see his like again.” Francis I
Clothing typical of what Leonardo would wear.
Oratory of Anne de Bretagne
The Oratory of Anne de Bretagne predates Leonardo da Vinci’s arrival. The chapel was commissioned by Charles III for his wife Anne de Bretagne, Anne of Britney. After an annulled first marriage, she married Charles III in 1491. Although pregnant for much of her adulthood, tragically, none of her children would survive early childhood. Anne de Bretagne would often come to this chapel and pray, and express her deepest sorrow and pain. The chapel was packed with tourists and I had to wait for my turn to enter. First, let’s take a look at the carving overhead…
My photos didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped but I have included a couple here. The paintings in the chapel were completed by pupils of Leonardo, and possibly included Francesco Melzi.
Looking over the château garden and the restaurant, Renaissance Terrace. There are three restaurants on site including L’Auberge du Prieuré which, according to the website, is a gastronomic journey from the time of Leonardo de Vinci.
Overlooking the vegetable garden, and the cultural shop and tea room.
Flower gardens where a young boy was preoccupied by the pool.
The view of Close Lucé from the vegetable garden.
The view from the château garden.
Facing Parc Leonardo da Vinci on a beautiful summer’s late afternoon.
On my next post from France, An Afternoon at Parc Leonardo da Vinci, Château du Clos Lucé, I’ll take you on a visit to Leonardo’s Garden and Parc Leonardo da Vinci which are alone worth the visit to Château du Clos Lucé. Please join me.
I would like to thank the Château du Clos Lucé for their excellent website and pamphlet which I consulted for this blog post. Also, thanks for their gracious offer of assistance on Twitter. The front of the pamphlet for Clos Lucé reads:
“A single journey, a whole universe.”
I like that!
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