Unbeknownst to me, Amboise had been the last home of the great Leonardo da Vinci, or Leonard da Vinci as the French would have it.
Towering imposingly above La Loire river is the impressive Chateau Royal. Leonardo, however, lived in another chateau of somewhat less imposing proportions but still magnificent, called the Chateau de Clos Lucé. Here there was a permanent exhibition devoted to the great man’s works and it was to here that we set off on foot. (Well, it might be effectively a museum but at least it’s a walk and gets your steps up.)
We forked out the necessary dosh and gained admittance. I’ve never heard Leonardo described as a polymath but I think he would richly deserve the appellation.
Here were exhibitions of his various mechanical imaginings including machines to enable man to fly, together with what I imagine would have been the world’s first parachute, presumably for when the flying machines didn’t, as they undoubtedly wouldn’t.
There were more mechanical inventions to do with war, including a wooden “tank” capable of spinning on its own axis, and what looked like the forerunner of the Gatling gun, 400-500 years before its time.
There was a separate exhibition of Leonardo’s anatomical studies, including a dissecting room, which led to the precision with which he painted human figures and notably hands. Allied to this there were, of course, numerous art works including his world renowned “Mona Lisa”, complete with enigmatic smile (it says here).
There was another painting on an easel set before an artist’s palette. This really brought a smile to my face. This looked for all the world as if Leonardo had been striving to find a compliant model capable of raising that world famous enigmatic smile but had run into a few failures. I can only think this painting would be titled Leonardo’s less famous “Up Yours” portrait. The finger, of course, looking as if it’s desperate to perform a DRE, is surely anatomically perfect.
OK, I’ve looked it up. Imagine my surprise to discover that my “Up Yours” portrait is apparently not a woman. What!? You’re kidding! No, it is supposedly St. John the Baptist. This fits with the St. John the Baptist figure, looking decidedly effeminate, in Leonardo’s hugely famous last supper image. Fans of The Da Vinci Code will know exactly what I mean. I’d say gender identity issues are nothing new, It’s just taken us 600 years to start blowing them out of all proportion and pandering to them.
On a lighter note, I did return to the real world on our return wander getting yet more steps in. On a promenade beside the river were two things of interest.
My animated interest came when I spotted what looked like an ichneumon wasp on the pathway near a puddle. I’m sure it will not prove possible to get to species but I’m pretty certain this is one of the Mud-dauber Wasps. They have a very long petiole, he said, getting technical. It certainly seemed to be collecting damp material from the side of the puddles on the path.
St. John the Baptiste, eh?