Travels

Amboise and Leonardo da Vinci

Thursday 25 July 2019

Where did Leonardo da Vinci die? When I was planning a longer tour, getting into Italy, I thought sites of da Vinci’s life might be an interesting route, and that would include his grave. Then I learned he died in France, but you, of course, already knew that.

After an underwhelming Angouleme, I needed to up my game, so left Angouleme for Amboise. It has a picture perfect royal castle, Tesco Heritage of course,

overlooking the Loire.

The castle is set in attractive gardens,

and grounds.

Amboise was the centre of the French Renaissance and Italian artists were much admired and sought after. In 1516, King François I invited Leonardo da Vinci to live in Amboise, giving him a princely salary and a large house. Three years later, da Vinci died and thus was buried in France.

The site of his original interment on the castle site was destroyed and he was reinterred (or remains believed to be his, you know how history works) here,

in St Hubert Chapel,

his grave marked by an embossed stone.

The Château d’Amboise was a good size, not overwhelming, with a rich history. A short walk away is Leonardo’s home,

and his bedroom where he died.

They’ve evoked his workshop,

and even his conversations with the king.

When Leonardo left Italy, he brought all his papers and three paintings that never left him. The Mona Lisa, and the two below,

St John the Baptist and The Virgin and Child with St Anne. This is why they are in the Louvre.

He died on May 2 1519. It was received wisdom that he died in the arms of the king,

but, despite this photographic evidence, that turned out not to be true; the king was elsewhere. But the story was told, and grew in the telling, so there are emotional accounts of that moment.

As people did at the time, copies of da Vinci’s Last Supper were ordered from other artists. Sometime prior to 1514, Louise of Savoy and her son, the future King of France, François I, ordered it as a tapestry!

This monumental work – 5.15 metres high and 9.13 metres long – has hung in the Vatican since 1533, when François presented it as a gift to Pope Clement VII to celebrate the marriage between his son Henri II and the Pope’s niece, Catherine de Medici. It has been restored as part of commemorations of 500 years since da Vinci’s death, with the support from the Château du Clos Lucé. It has been released by the Vatican and is now the centrepiece of an exhibition at the Château. It’s remarkable to see it in context.

There is more to Amboise than da Vinci, though he’s not a bad headline act. As I walked between the castle and the house, I spotted houses cut into the rock,

and ‘caves’,

some quite large,

Researching them, it turns out the Loire area is peppered with such Troglodyte, literally people who live in caves, dwellings, some of large scale, developing and changing use over the centuries; as mushroom farms, for example. What a diverse and wonderful world we inhabit.

I see the UK is breaking temperature records today. (It’s not global warming, but the country fuming over the coronation of a mendacious buffoon as PM.) 36 degrees in places! I’ll just leave this here.

23:30 and the van’s showing 33 degrees inside and out.

Exactly a year ago, I was near Breda in the Netherlands when it was declared the hottest place in Europe. We have a climate crisis, but our energies are being sucked up by the three insatiable black holes of two man-babies and Brexit.

It’s not good, but I’m feeling strangely optimistic. Johnson’s coronation was inevitable as soon as May resigned. (I’m glad I’ve been out of the country over recent weeks). He has been able to get 100,000 thick as mince conservative walking dead gammons to scratch a cross next to his name, but he’s doomed. He’s surrounding himself with liars, but now the country knows they’re liars. His cabinet is not exactly the Brains Trust, they’re hardly overloaded by gravitas and have a history of incompetence. It doesn’t matter how much they finger each other up around the cabinet table, they’ll be ripped to shreds when they face parliament and the media.

Also, Brexit is still a fog impossible to knit.

It’s going to be pitiful and painful, and embarrassing internationally, but they’re all fucked!

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