02.05.2014: 495th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Leonardo’s patron Giuliano de Medici died in February of 1516. At that time, Italy stood in awe of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian, and Leonardo did not hope to find any great Italian patron. Therefore, he accepted a standing invitation that had been extended to him first by Louis XII and then again by Francis I to move to France and join its rulers in the Loire Valley.
Arriving in Amboise, he took up residence in a manor at Cloux, which was connected by a short underground tunnel to the King’s château. The King treated him with great honor. Although Leonardo’s arm was paralyzed and he could no longer paint, Francis thought him a worthwhile expense: he enjoyed Leonardo’s conversation and regarded him the most cultivated man in Europe.
Don Antonio de Beatis, a secretary to the cardinal of Aragon, visited Leonardo at Cloux. He describes him as a great gentleman. Leonardo showed de Beatis his notebooks, giving de Beatis the impression that they would eventually be published. Although Leonardo devised chapter headings and timetables for treatises on casting, painting, vision, the flight of birds, the voice, ballistics, hydraulics, building materials, and human anatomy, none of them were ever completed.
In April of 1519, Leonardo composed his will. He wills his soul to “Almighty God,” a sign that, if ever he had abandoned his faith, he now returned to religion. Sforza had granted him a vineyard, which was divided between his servant and Salai, who also inherited the house that Leonardo had been paying for him to live in. Leonardo also left his brothers a decent some of money, 400 ducats, and the property inherited from Francesco that he had fought for in court. He named Melzi as his executor and left him everything else, including all his art and writings. Leonardo’s will also expresses his desire for an elaborate funeral: this is not surprising; Leonardo had always had a taste for elegance and finery in clothing, and now the bastard son, accused of sodomy, deprived of reputation, had achieved astounding greatness; his superlative funeral ceremony symbolized his remarkable successes.
On the second of May, Leonardo died. Vasari reports that he died in the King’s arms, though this may be more myth than truth.