In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet, a young parliamentarian of 26, acquired the fiefdom of Vaux-le-Vicomte. Twenty years later, he created a unique masterpiece: the castle and garden are among the most beautiful in France. For the first time in history, this visionary brought together on a single project
Victim of a plot by Colbert and Louis XIV, Fouquet was finally arrested in 1661. He was then sentenced to banishment and life imprisonment by the king. Vaux-le-Vicomte was then placed under seal and the king seized almost all of its contents. Tapestries, furniture, paintings, books, carpets... even the orange trees! Madame Fouquet took 10 years to recover her property, where she retired with her eldest son. After the death of her son, she decided to sell the castle of Vaux-le-Vicomte which was put up for sale in 1705.
Vaux-le-Vicomte is emblematic both for the brilliant artists, the best of their time, who designed its incredible architecture and gardens, but also for the famous figures who walked its paths.
Louis Le Vau, architect.
Born into a family of architects and entrepreneurs, he was the main architect of the urbanization of the Ile Saint-Louis in Paris and built various private mansions in the capital. He built many castles, which have now disappeared (Château de Saint-Sépulcre, du Raincy, de Sucy-en-Brie), but the one at Vaux-le-Vicomte is his masterpiece that has stood the test of time. He carried out the transformations for the King at Versailles that made it the incredible palace we know today.
Charles Le Brun. Painter and decorator.
This painter studied in Rome with Poussin, then, back in Paris, he started to decorate large ensembles such as the Hôtel Lambert. Nicolas Fouquet called upon his talent for the decoration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, for which he designed furniture and statues, directed the tapestry manufacture and created the decorations. He did not have time to paint his "Palace of the Sun" project on the dome of the Grand Salon, a work of unprecedented scope in French art.
After the fall of Fouquet, he became the King's protégé and first painter, then director of the Gobelins and chancellor of the Academy. In 1665, he presided over the decoration of Versailles and subsequently exercised a quasi-dictatorship over the arts.
André Le Notre, gardener.
The development of the gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte was the first major work of France's most famous "garden architect". This masterpiece triggered commissions from owners wishing to modernise the environment of their hotel or château: Sceaux, Chantilly, Marly, St-Cloud, Meudon, etc. He became Louis XIV's favourite gardener, and his most famous achievement was the gardens of Versailles, where he carried out the king's wishes to perfection.
His methods, such as the geometric layout, the vast perspectives, the use of water features and statues, created the imposing framework of the Grand Siècle and were exported to Europe, imposing the codes of the "French garden".
Source: Vaux le Vicomte
Photo: The good life France