On April 23rd 1519, feeling the weight of passed years always heavier of his weak shoulders, Leonardo da Vinci dictates his will. Lying in his bed at the Clos Lucé, he divides his possessions among his most faithful friends and probably mentions his last 3 years in Amboise. Next to him, his skilled student Francesco Melzi, who painted some of the mansion’s walls. Battista da Villanis, his devoted Milanese servant, who took care of him like a son for his father. And of course Mathurine, the faithful cook and maid, who worked for 3 years at satisfying the very unusual eating habits of his host.
Life at the Manoir du Cloux
3 years earlier, during the autumn 1516, Amboise is buzzing. Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of the most famous Italian artist as he passes the city’s ramparts. Francois I, then a 22-year-old king and art lover, is thrilled to finally meet a man whose experience, wisdom and creativity are praised. In his small redbrick mansion, Leonardo receives him very simply, shares his thoughts and talks about his plans.
A boiling mind
In his workshop on ground floor, Leonardo’s boiling mind works on projects as diverse as drying up the Sologne marshes, organizing amazing parties for the Court, but also designing a gigantic palace for the King’s pleasure. Absorbed by his thoughts, Leonardo does not see how fast time flows, despite his declining health. Evidence being these few words written hastily on a piece of parchment: “I must stop for tonight; my bowl of soup is getting cold…”