« Details make perfection and perfection isn’t just a detail. »
Leonardo Da Vinci
Travel through 800 years of history at the Château of Clos Lucé
During the middle age (1214 – 1417) the domain belongs to the Amboise family, who gave the land of Cloux as a gift to the religious Cistercian order of Moncé, an abbey founded in Limeray, under the protection of the lords of Amboise.
The saga of this pink bricks and freestone domain, built over gallo-roman foundations, begins under the reign of Louis XI, in 1471. Given by the king to his favourite Etienne le Loup, an ennobled kitchen man, the Château du Cloux was surrounded by fortified walls. The place is then bought by Charles VIII on July the 2 nd 1490 to become the royal residence of the kings of France.
The king turns the fortress into a pleasure castle and builds an oratory, true jewel of the gothic architecture, for his wife Queen Anne de Bretagne. The young duke of Angoulême, future king Francis I, spends a lot of time in this château.
At the end of the XVII century, the Château du Clouxis named Château du Clos Lucé. It’s recovered by the Amboise Family who saves it from destruction during the revolution, and then, in 1854, it becomes part of the Saint Bris Family.
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At the Château du Clos Lucé, dive into French History
King Louis XI gives the domain of Cloux, known today as the Château du Clos Lucé, to a former ennobled
kitchen boy named Etienne le Loup. He built the Château du Clos Lucé with bricks and freestone, as well as one
of France’s most beautiful dovecotes, untouched until today. Inside you’ll hear the flapping of the thousand birds it used to shelter.
The Clos Lucé becomes the summerhouse of the kings of France. Charles VIII asks for a chapel to be built for his young wife, Queen Anne de Bretagne, who comes to mourn the loss of her young children. The chapel is decorated with four frescos, including the Annunciation, which was painted by Leonardo’s pupils. The Virgin of light, « Virgo Lucis », above the door, may have given the site its current name: Château du Clos Lucé.
King Francis I and Louise de Savoie invite Leonardo da Vinci to Amboise.
King Francis I, passionate by Leonardo da Vinci’s talent, names him “ Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King" and offers him the enjoyment of the Château of Clos Lucé, located only a few meters away from the Château d’Amboise. The national archives in Paris own a certificate for payement mentioning the pension from Francis I to Leonardo da Vinci « To Master Lyenard de Vince, Italian painter, the sum of 2000 ecussoleil, for his pension of two years ».
Leonardo spends the last three years of his life at the Château of Clos Lucé and works on several projects for the king of France, surrounded by his students. He welcomes prestigious visitors like the Cardinal of Aragon, great men of the kingdom, Italian ambassadors and fellow artists present in the king’s court, like Domenico da Cortona, known as the Boccador and Chambord’s future architect.
An underground passage between the two castles allowsboth men to meet frequently. Today, only the first meters are still visible.
After a fascinating relationship between Leonardo da Vinci and three French Kings(Charles VIII, Louis XII and Francis I), the Italian Master passes away on May the 2 nd 1519 in his room at the Château du Clos Lucé.
« The painter has to become universal »
Leonardo Da Vinci
Imagine Leonardo da Vinci’s journey through the Alps in 1516
Facing the young artists of the Italian Renaissance, Raphael and Michelangelo, on fall 1516, Leonardo da Vinci accepts the invitation of the king at 64 years old and travelsthrough the Alps on the back of a mule with some of his pupils, including Francesco Melzi and Battista de Villanis his faithful Milanese servant. He also brings with him his major paintings: Monna Lisa, the Virgin and the Child and St.John the Baptist as well as his notes, sketches and manuscripts, later gathered in the codex, today spread throughout the world.
- Codex Arundel, London, British Library
- Codex Atlanticus, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana
- Codex Forster, London, Victoria and Albert Museum
- Codex Trivulzianus, Milano, Castello Sforzesco
- Codex of Madrid, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional
- Codex of Turin, or Codex about bird’s flight, Turin, Biblioteca Reale
- Manuscripts A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, Paris, Institut de France
- Codex Leicester, Bill Gates private collection
Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile comes to the Château du Clos Lucé
According to an account by the secretary to the Cardinal of Aragon, who was visiting the Château du Clos Lucé, they saw, "the painting of a Florentine woman, done from life, at the instance of Giuliano de' Medici." Painted between 1503 and 1514, this work is an example of Leonardo da Vinci's famous sfumato technique, in which the edges are blurred and softened.
Visit the rooms of the château and imagine Leonardo living and working there
Leonardo's bedchamber looked out on the Château Royal d’Amboise. It was in this house that he wrote his will, bequeathing his manuscripts and notebooks of drawings and sketches to his beloved disciple Franceso Melzi. He passed away in his bedchamber on 2 May 1519.
The bedchamber of Marguerite de Navarre, the elder sister of Francis I, has been fully restored and furnished in the 16th-century style. Her portrait by François Clouet, official painter to the king, is on show in one of the display cabinets.
The oratory of Anne of Brittany, the wife of Charles VIII, is decorated with four frescoes, including one of the Annunciation painted by disciples of Leonardo. Above the door, the Virgin of Light, Virgo Lucis, is thought to have been the inspiration for the château’s new name: Le Clos Lucé.
On the ground floor of the building, find the Leonardo Da Vinci's living workshops. Discover the ambiance of the bottegas that were typical of the Renaissance in his artist's studio. In the library, facsimiles from the Institut de France and ancient texts are aligned alongside an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. Swept away, an audiovisual production that uses “ghost technology” is projected.
In this artist’s house, from his workshop, Leonardo da Vinci thinks, invents and conceives royal requests:
- The ideal city of Romorantin destined to become the capital of the kingdom.
- The double helix staircase of the Château de Chambord that he inspired.
- A network of locks and canals connecting the Val de Loire to Lyon,for a swifter access to Italy.
- The draining of Sologne’s swamps
- The staging for spectacular royal celebrations, he imagines many automatons like the « Lys flower spitting lion ».
- Movable houses for the itinerant court.
« Because the soup is getting cold, etcaetera. » this sentence would have been found in one of Leonardo’s writings. Imagine entering the unchanged kitchen and see Leonardo getting warm next to the high stone hearth whileMathurine, his servant from Tours, prepares his vegetarian meal.
Leonardo has a healthy nutrition, according to him « sobriety, healthy meals and a proper sleep will keep you in good health».
The four visitor rooms in the basement provide insight into the comprehensive knowledge of Leonardo da Vinci the engineer. 3D animations and 40 models show the diverse range of Leonardo da Vinci’s intuitive grasp of engineering: aeroplane, automobile, helicopter, tank, and more.
« Nature is filled with infinite causes that experiments have never demonstrated »
Leonardo Da Vinci
In Leonardo’s garden: Learn how nature inspired his work
At Le Clos Lucé, Leonardo’s garden was imagined the same
way: all the answers to the questions about the Master are here, accessible to
children and grown ups.
The trees, plants and even the moving water described on the codex and paintings come back to life in this garden dedicated to nature. Rocks, caves, streams, waterfalls, misty effects reminding the sfumato technique… Here, even the slightest details of his work are brought to life.
Walk around the pond surrounded by centuries-old pines, Italian cypresses and yews. There, admire madonna lilies, yellow irises, horned violets, European alders, cyclamen repandums, and of course, the famous Mona Lisarose.
As Leonardo used to say: « It’s all here. »
In the Park Leonardo da Vinci, experience the creative universe of the Master
As you walk, you meet Leonardo the engineer, Leonardo the visionary and Leonardo the painter and architect. In the park, climb aboard the assault chariot, action the aerial screw, manipulate the multi-barrelled gun, sail on the paddle boat and walk on the revolving bridge and the twenty meters high double-span bridge, all crafted the original way. Because the models are the actual size, they offer an authentic experience to both children and adults. Look at the forty translucent canvasses suspended to the trees, each one three to four meters tall.
Discover the bright faces, the beautiful bodies, the mechanics of life, the technical projects of the ideal city... Let the voice of Jean Piat, from the ComédieFrançaise, guide you as he plays the role of the Master throughout your visit.
The Leonardo da Vinci park is a unique journey among the genius’s pieces of work.
« The motive power is the cause of all life. »
Leonardo da Vinci
10 years of creating and restoring
Works carried out over the past 10 years :
The external facades of the chapel, as well as the corner turret housing the spiral staircase are restored. Creation of the Parc Culturel Leonardo da Vinci, animated by 20 life size models of the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, 40 giant canvases illustrating paintings and drawings of the master and 8 interactive terminals in a protected 7 hectares wooded park.
From 2004 to 2007
A major restoration campaign, directed by Arnaud de Saint-Jouan, chief architect of historic monuments, led to a four year work on the walls of the castle and of the XV century priory where the renaissance restaurant is today.
The Château du Clos Lucé creates a new place: « Leonardo’s Garden », dédicated to Leonardo da Vinci and nature, holding sustainable development values.
2010 – 2016
A complete inner restauration campaign is set to finalize Leonardo da Vinci’s residence restoration, just as he knew it. The first part 2010 – 2011: restoration of Leonardo’s bedroom and the adjoining one of Marguerite de Navarre. The second part 2012 – 2014: restoration of the monumental dressed stone stairs.
Leonardo da Vinci's living workshops
Leonardo da Vinci’s workshops
put the final touch on the immense restoration project led by the Saint Bris family.
Located in a 100 m2 space on the ground floor of the building, these three rooms – previously closed to the public – have been restored with the aim of immersing visitors in the abundant creativity and the work environment that reigned at the time. Shadow and light, a recurring theme for Leonardo da Vinci (and theorized in his A Treatise on Painting), guide each guest through a day in the life of the Master, from morning to night. In each room, the décor has been recreated with incredible attention to detail: original frescoes repainted in pigments used during the Renaissance, furniture produced from plans from the era and stained glass with small circular panes that bathe the rooms in the captivating atmosphere of shadow and light beloved by the Master.
Two years of research and renovation, 30 people and 15 trades were required to restore Leonardo da Vinci’s workshops, library and study at Le Clos Lucé.
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