Lovin' the Loire

‘Fake news’: Leonardo died in the arms of Francis I

An 1818 painting by French artist Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres shows Leonardo da Vinci breathing his last in the arms of his patron, France’s King Francis I.

The Ingres painting hangs at the Petit Palais in Paris

The scene was inspired by an account in “Lives of the Artists” by Giorgio Vasari, first published in 1550.

Vasari, seen as the father of art history, wrote that Leonardo “died in the arms of the monarch”. The problem is that it could not be true. According to historical records, the king was a two-day ride away in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, near Paris, for the baptism of his second son on May 3, the day after the Renaissance master died.

While the Ingres painting, which hangs in the Petit Palais in Paris, is the best-known depiction of the sentimental fiction, it was itself inspired by a 1781 painting by Francois-Guillaume Menageot, which is on display at the royal chateau of Amboise after meticulous restoration work for the quincentenary.