A photo of Clos Luce in Amboise, France, artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci's home during the last three years of his life. The chateau is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to the public 365 days a year. Charles VIII purchased Clos Luce in 1490. Etienne le Loup, major-domo to King Louis XI, built the house in 1471 on 12th-century foundations. It remained a royal domain until the French Revolution. Charles VIII transformed the manor house into a summer residence of sorts for his bride, Anne of Brittany.
As no interior photographs are allowed, I bought the book Chateau du Clos Luce Watercolours by Beatrice Saint Bris. Da Vinci arrived in Amboise in 1516, having crossed the Alps riding a mule. He was accompanied by his disciples Francesco Melzi and Batista de Villanis and his servant. In his saddlebags, the 64-year-old Leonardo carried three major paintings, as well as his notes and manuscripts. Two of those paintings, the Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist - the latter completed at Clos Luce - are part of the permanent collection in the Louvre, Paris.
The main entrance of the 15th-century manor house, which was built of pink bricks and white limestone. An underground tunnel linked the house to the castle, 400 metres away.
The doorway to the oratory, or chapel, built for Anne of Brittany. Holding her Book of Hours, the queen often prayed here for her children, who died young. Her Book of Hours was commissioned from Jean Bourdichon, an illuminator from Tours.
Beatrice Saint Bris's watercolour depiction of the chapel's exterior doorway.
A doorway in the parapet walk and watchtower, built under Louis XI. It is the last surviving piece of medieval architecture, when Clos Luce was a fortified residence. During the Renaissance, the parapet walk was converted into a gallery, similar to an Italian loggia. The court and its ladies would sit here to watch tournaments and festivities that Leonardo da Vinci organised for his friend, Francois I.
A watercolour of the parapet walk. It is now the main entrance for visitors to Clos Luce.
Leonardo's bed chamber and the window from which he viewed his Renaissance garden, as well as the castle of Francois I. Leonardo's drawing of this view is part of the Windsor collection, owned by the British royal family. The Renaissance canopied-bed is sculpted with chimera, cherubs and sea creatures.
Leonardo wrote his will in this room, leaving his manuscripts, and notebooks of drawings and sketches to Francesco Melzi, his disciple. He died on May 2, 1519, after receiving the holy sacraments. Tradition has it that Francois I was with Leonardo at the moment of his death.
The chapel where Anne of Brittany spent so many hours. A framed quotation from Leonardo hangs near the gothic doorway: "L'amour triomphe de tout," or "love triumphs over everything." I spent several minutes absorbed by the peaceful atmosphere in this beautiful oratory.
The Chapel bears the three fleurs-de-lis of the French coat of arms, surrounded by the Collar of the Order of St. Michael, founded by Louis XI. The chapel also features a Romanesque ribbed and vaulted ceiling, painted deep blue and punctuated with gold stars. Three restored wall frescoes are attributed to Leonardo's disciples, including A Madonna of Light, an Annunciation and an Assumption. The Virgo Lucis, or Madonna of Light, is carrying the Infant Jesus, her feet resting on a crescent moon.