Château du Clos Lucé

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His life: chronology


Painter, inventor, engineer, scientist, humanist, philosopher, Leonardo da Vinci is the very incarnation of the universalist spirit of the Renaissance, and remains its main symbol. His life was punctuated by frequent periods staying at the Italian courts, until Francis I invited him to come and settle at the Château du Clos Lucé.

Leonardo da Vinci’s training (1452-1481)

Illegitimate son of lawyer Piero da Vinci and a simple peasant woman, Leonardo was born in Tuscany on 15th April 1452. At the age of 14, he joined his father in Florence and entered the workshop of a famous artist, Andrea del Verrocchio, where he learned many skills. At the age of 26, Leonardo left his master, having already acquired a good reputation as a painter.

In the service of the Duke of Sforza in Milan (1481-1499)

In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci settled in Milan in the service of Duke Ludovico Sforza. He had many occupations: he was a painter (The Last Supper was produced during this period) and sculptor, but also the creator of shows and an engineer. A town planner ahead of his time, he contemplated an ideal city.

Artist and engineer in Mantua, Venice and Florence (1499-1506)

In 1499, when the French entered Milan, Leonardo went to Mantua and Venice, where he drew up plans for the defence of the city against the Turks. In 1503, he went back to Florence and worked on hydraulic projects. But painting was always at the centre of his endeavours, and it was in 1503 that he started the portrait of the Mona Lisa.

The passion for sciences in Milan (1506-1513)

Summoned in 1506 by the French governor of Milan, Charles d’Amboise, Leonardo became fascinated by the sciences. He made drawings of almost everything he came into contact with: people, animals, plants, mechanisms, and so on. He had the rare privilege of having access to human cadavers, and he dissected them and studied their internal anatomy in detail.

In Rome, in the service of the Medicis (1513-1516)

For the last few years that he spent in Italy, Leonardo lived in Rome, in the service of the Medicis, who controlled almost the whole country, and protected the artist for a long time. But competition with Raphael and Michelangelo, rising stars in the world of painting and sculpture, was fierce...

Leonardo da Vinci at Le Clos Lucé (1516-1519)

In 1515, Francis I won the Milan area in the battle of Marignan, and invited Leonardo to come to France. The following year, the artist arrived at the Château du Clos Lucé after a journey across the Alps on mule-back. He brought with him three paintings: the Mona Lisa, Saint John the Baptist, and The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. Leonardo was named as “The King’s First Painter, Engineer and Architect”, and received a pension of 1000 gold crowns per year. In 1519, the artist died at Le Clos Lucé at the age of 67.