It’s been 500 years since Leonardo da Vinci died, but his brilliance continues to fascinate the world.
Commemorations for the five-century anniversary of his death began this week in Amboise, in the Loire Valley, with France and Italy setting aside recent tensions to honour the memory of the Renaissance genius in the town where he spent his final years.
In 1516, aged 64, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci left Italy to enter the service of King Francis I of France. Many of his masterpieces – Saint John the Baptist, the Mona Lisa – followed him and were sold to the French monarch, forming a legacy now exhibited at the Louvre museum in Paris.
Amid diplomatic disagreements between Rome and Paris, his legacy has become contentious, with Italy’s Culture undersecretary Lucia Borgonzoni in November telling Italian media she wanted to renegotiate the planned lending of his works to the Louvre for an anniversary exhibition, because “the French cannot have it all”.
It is unclear, for example, whether the iconic drawing of the Vitruvian Man will eventually leave Venice to join the Louvre for the display.
But on Thursday, in Amboise, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella sought to ease strains between the two normally close allies that have grown more acute since mid-2018, mostly over migration policy.
They gathered at da Vinci’s tomb, a modest grave in a chapel of Amboise castle containing his presumed remains, and paid a visit to his house nearby, the Clos Luce, where he died on May 2, 1519.
“It’s an extremely solemn gesture, showing that the two countries have this shared memory, this figure, a culture that binds our two countries,” the director of Amboise castle Jean-Louis Sureau said.
Da Vinci’s arrival in France was no accident. King Francis I wanted him to join the Court to participate in its international influence and refinement, Sureau said.
-Sydney Morning Herald
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