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02.05.2019 Europe

Da Vinci coda: France marks 500th anniversary of artist's death

By Paul Myers - RFI
PHILIPPE WOJAZER / AFP
MAY 2, 2019 EUROPE

In an apt memorial to the Italian master, Leonardo da Vinci's death in France on 2 May, 1519, was used to rekindle relations between his homeland and his adopted country France to mark the 500th anniversary.

French president Emmanuel Macron and his Italian counterpart, Sergio Mattarella, paid their respects to the Renaissance genius with a visit to the Clos Lucé in Amboise where da Vinci spent the last three years of his life under the aegis of the French monarch François I.

"The bond between our countries and our citizens is indestructible," Macron said following a visit to the chateau in Amboise where they laid wreaths at da Vinci's grave.

The joint celebrations follow months of diplomatic spats between Paris and Rome over the policies of Italy's populist government and its support for France's anti-government Yellow Vest protesters.

At one point during the deteriorating relations, France briefly recalled its ambassador from Rome.

When da Vinci came to France in 1516, the court was in a swoon over all things Italian. François I was barely out of his teens but he continued the vogue of his predecessor, Louis XII, of drafting in architects and artisans from Florence, Milan and Rome.

Although he was 64 and perhaps being eclipsed by the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci was a star acquisition.

He brought with him a couple of his most promising students as well as three of his favourite paintings: the Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and Saint John the Baptist.

He was lavished with a generous stipend as well as an impressive title: First Painter, Engineer and Architect of the King.

When da Vinci died, the paintings went to the crown and they all hang in the Louvre museum in Paris.

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