The Chateau du Clos Lucé, where Leonardo Da Vinci spent his last years (1516-1519) is truly a magical place. Surrounding the chateau is an extensive park filled with trees and winding waterways. It has been transformed into an outdoor exhibit featuring full sized working models of Da Vinci’s inventions based on his sketches. Groups of school children move between the models, each getting a chance to turn the cranks which activate them, as their teacher describes da Vinci’s purpose and methods.
Sunlight and shadow filter through huge translucent banners of Leonardo’s drawings and paintings. Sitting on a bench in the park we listen to da Vinci describing his fascination with flight. A sudden breeze lifts the drawings of the flying machines Leonard imagined as his words float around us.
After the garden we tour the chateau, including da Vinci’s bedroom, studio, and workshops. I am fascinated by the display of pigments and mediums used to create paints in Da Vinci’s time. A loaded palette and brushes sit below a reproduction of a Da Vinci painting. Scientific models line the shelves along with natural examples of mathematical principals—such as the spiral of a ram’s horn—reminding us of Da Vinci’s curiosity and breath of interests. A series of small sketch books are on display in a glass case. Could they be original? It almost seems impossible they could have survived.
Another room features a holographic recreation of a conversation between Da Vinci and the Cardinal of Aragon inviting Leonardo to be the king’s guest in Amboise. They speak about Da Vinci’s work, and admire the Mona Lisa sitting on a easel behind them, before dissolving into thin air leaving us with just the room and its contents.
In the lower floor we wander through rooms of working models and animations, finally emerging into the bright sunlit gardens, carrying with us a new appreciation of Da Vinci’s genius and endless curiosity about the world around him.