Leonardo turned up in Clos-Lucé manor

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The main room - ©Manfred Heyde / CC-BY-SA The main room - ©Manfred Heyde / CC-BY-SA
Clos-Lucé manor house Castle Castle of the Loire Valley Leonardo da Vinci François I

A cook with the gift of the gab

In the beginning, the manor of Cloux belonged to nuns from Moncé, in the 13th century. An estate owned in 1472 by Etienne Le Loup, guard of the forests of Amboise and Montrichard. Etienne raised a little manor with a covered way and a watchtower, a dovecote and a drawbridge. Ye Gods! The castle belonged to a cook! Yes, Etienne Le Loup! He started in the kitchen of the castle of Plessis-les-Tours, you know, king Louis XI’s house.

One day, Louis came in the kitchen. He wore a simple shirt, so Etienne didn’t recognize him! He was a brand new cook, here, so Louis asked him: ″-Who are you? -I’m Etienne. -How old are you? -15. How much money did you earn this month? -Much better than the king. -And how much money did the king earn? -What he spend.″ Louis smiled. He liked that answer! He will make this Etienne a rich man… So, he ennobled him and appointed him king’s butler! And of course lord of Cloux...

An Italian in Amboise

François’ gift

After our ennobled cook, priority to the upper crust: all the high society turned up in Cloux! First, king Charles VIII owned the manor in 1409: he liked to be here, to have some rest. He even raised a little Gothic chapel for his wife Anne of Brittany. And after the coming of his mum Louise de Valois, king François I transformed Cloux into Da Vinci’s house!

Benvenuto, Leo!

The famous Italian sojourned here between 1516 to 1519 (year of his death). Aaah, François and Leonardo… great friends! François wanted to attract the best Italian artists in France. And Leo was the cream of the cream! He came in Touraine in 1516, he was 63. A very old man, at that time! François gave him the manor of Cloux, next to his castle of Amboise.

Leo lived here with his loyal servant, Francesco Melzi. Here, he created all that he wanted, in this quiet setting: inventions, sculptures, architectural plans… François treated him, anyway! He even gave him a private income of 700 golden crowns, per year. Not bad… In exchange? Well, hardly anything, just to chat with Leo, il maestro!

Mona Lisa in France

François linked Cloux to his castle of Amboise by a kind of handrail raised in 1482, so he could visit Leonardo! During one of his visit, this one show a painting to the king. Oh, virtually nothing, just a women portrait with a nice smile… YES, let this be known: Leo brought with him the famous Mona Lisa! François saw her, and he immediately wanted the painting. The poor Leo sold it 4000 crowns, with a lump on his throat… So, that’s how today, the famous Mona is in France, in the Louvre museum! Thank you, François!

Automaton and lilies’ wreath

The manor became a real shelter, for the old and sick Leonardo: the artist worked here on his dummies and outlines. Always watched over by his loyal servant and his cook Mathurine… But, no more painting for him! Because he was paralyzed of the right arm. Damned! So, Leo made gorgeous parties for the king, where came all the Court. Do you know that, during a feast, he made an automaton of a life-size lion, who walked and who let a lilies’ wreath falling from its chest?

After il maestro...

After Leonardo’s death, the manor fell to Marie Babou de la Bourdaisière and Michel du Gast, Henri III’s captain. Fell to the house of Amboise, Cloux was completely re-fitted out in the 19th century...

Leonardo is dying!

On May 2th 1519, Leo passed away in the manor… The legend says that the king François I was here, at his bedside! In a famous painting, he's holding Leonardo’s head, talking to him. Then, he breathes his last in the king’s arms… whoa, nice! But it’s only a legend: because we know now that François wasn’t in Amboise when Leo kicked the bucket!

And also!