The sale of Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi for $450m reminded me of a road trip many years ago between Barcelona and the UK. In the Loire we were halted by probably the most tremendous thunder storm I have ever seen – and certainly the most dramatic I have ever tried to drive in.
Knowing that we couldn’t continue (in order to preserve our lives) we resolved to stop at the next town – which happened to be Amboise. A beautiful chateâu appeared through the dark and rain, beckoning travellers to stay the night. Car parked, a dash through the mighty doors and a question (in basic French) as to whether accommodation was available, was met with a ‘Oui’ and we booked in for one night to weather the storm with great relief.
Once inside, dry and wandering around, the name of the random chateau into which we had booked started to nag at me. I’d heard it somewhere before. And then I realised. Château du Clos-Lucé was where Leonardo Da Vinci had spent his final three years.
The Italian genius moved to the château in 1516. He had packed his bags and his favourite paintings – incuding the Mona Lisa – to take residence at the home of French King François 1st. In short he left politically chaotic Rome for better wine and more clement weather conditions. He settled there until his death in 1519.
Inside the chateau is a chapel, where Leonardo is reputedly buried, although not a proven fact. The only evidence appears to be two plaques stating ‘The final resting place of Leonardo,’ one in French and one in Italian.
Our unplanned and meteorological stay allowed me to sit inside a deep window ledge and look out over the Loire. A seat and a view which, I am sure, Leonardo himself must have enjoyed 500 years ago.