We went to the French town of Amboise where the famous Italian artist, inventor, engineer and all round good guy - Leonardo da Vinci lived for the last few years of his interesting life.
It seems that for all his talent as an artist, sculptor and master of his craft, he was not quite able make a living from painting portraits. So in order to stave off hunger and pay the bills he turned to the lucrative trade of weapons. Leonardo sent a letter to the government of France asking for a job and in this letter he describes all his inventions and how they can be deployed to disrupt the enemy.
Leonardo certainly was way ahead of his time. I have not found any figures on what the Australian government spends on portraits, although I suspect that it is quite a few orders of magnitude lower than what is spent on kitting out our formidable navy with new radios. Leonardo certainly was not stupid and he must have seen that there was always money in the country’s, any countries for that matter, defence budget. Some of his last inventions were the sort of things that pre-school kids draw when they learn about attacking forts with canons and the delicate art of laying siege to medieval castles - the simple application of multitude of shields held in place by some sort of carriage with a lot of guns sticking out. I felt kind of sorry for him, a great master, an inspiration to hundreds of people long after his death, reduced in his later years to warmongering.
Leonardo’s house was interesting. There was a sketch hanging by the window of his bedroom showing the local castle - the sketch must have been made while he was standing at the same window - there is a realisation that Leonardo was here looking out the same window only a few hundred years before.
Hugo and I looked at two of Leonardo’s paintings while we were in his dinning room. I am sure that hundreds of well educated scholars (are there any other kind?) have studied these portraits and came to interesting conclusions that do not agree with mine. These two people look like they are related. They have a family resemblance. They have the same eyes, fingers and expression.
Later at one of the souvenir shops, I looked a copy of the Mona Lisa that cost two dollars. The copy was much cheaper than the one I saw at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the copy has a protective coating unlike the one in the Louvre where the paint came off when I touched it, also this one is slightly bigger.
In one of those family moments that could have happened anywhere, we all laid down on the lush green grass not far from Leonardo’s grave and looked up at the clouds. We pointed out what looked like horses, dragons and maps of Australia without Tasmania (are there any other kind?).
After a relaxing holiday in Amboise away from the excitement of relaxing holiday in Paris we went home on the TGV. The scenery was similar to what you might see on the way to Dalby from
Toowoomba. This was one of the things that I wanted to do in France - the other things were not in the budget. Here is a picture of me on the TGV travelling at 300km/h and realising a small and obtainable dream.