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France 1516-1519

After finally leaving Milan in 1513, Leonardo spent three years in Rome, under the patronage of Giuliano de’ Medici, brother of Pope Leo X. Leonardo achieved little of note in these years, and in late 1516, aged 64, he accepted an offer of employment at the court of the king of France, the young Francis I.

Leonardo settled at Amboise in the Loire valley, where he held a privileged position as painter, engineer and architect to the king. While he and his assistants were still painting the St Anne and Mona Lisa, Leonardo was mainly a designer – of architecture and civil engineering, costumes and festivals, and another equestrian monument – and generally an adornment to the court.

In his last years Leonardo purged his drawings of much of their former colour, eliminating red chalk and restricting his materials to black chalk, pen and ink, and wash, even in a few drawings working in black chalk on a dark grey ground.