A Day at Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte
Vaux-le-Vicomte is the château that cautions us to beware of upstaging the boss. The unique elements of this spectacular 17th century castle, built by Louis XIV’s infamous finance minister Nicolas Fouquet, set a precedent that would inspire the design of Versailles and be emulated across much of Europe. It was designed and crafted by a dream-team of the finest artisans of the day including Louis le Vau, Charles le Brun and Andre le Notre. Lucky for us, the brothers who manage the estate today have assembled a stunning compilation of archival documents, photography, and history to guide us through a comprehensive tour of Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Garden design that deftly hovered between illusion and reality…
Le Notre, previously employed by Louis XIII, was hired by Fouquet to create grounds and garden grandeur like never seen before- with a moat around the house, forced perspective in the gardens to make objects appear closer, gardens that required development phases and meticulous design to commence well before the château would break ground. Before the garden layout, a nursery had to be planted to supply the greenery.
The innovations of Vaux le Vicomte included a wrought iron gate around the property rather than the fortress walls of the past. These gardens were every bit as important as the château itself, and they were designed to be enjoyed from afar.
“Vaux… is an estate that I considered my primary seat… and where I wanted to leave a mark of the status I had.” – Nicolas Fouquet
Well, that he certainly did. With his own sure sense of taste, the team that he employed created a masterpiece of French architecture which managed to mingle the traditional, the fashionable and the novel. Artist Charles le Brun was in charge of the Interior Decoration of the chateau. His goal was to glorify Fouquet. He designed interior details, oversaw hundreds of craftsmen and even painted ceiling murals himself.
The innovations of Vaux le Vicomte included a dining room (new to the 17th century), fancier ceilings – painted by Le Brun, with painted coffers. As in the ceiling painting above, Fouquet repeatedly symbolized his allegiance to the king. He also has himself depicted as Apollo, somewhat of a power play, subliminally reminding visitors of his wit and keenness for art and poetry. In such a sophisticated manner he mingled the beauties of art, nature and history throughout the property.
Above: view of the oval salon looking toward the king’s formal apartment. The arched windows and pilasters of the ground floor are matched by the square windows and terms of the upper floor. The private apartments upstairs were arranged around a central hallway, allowing them each privacy that was unusual for the time- another innovative move on behalf of Fouquet and his architect.
This stunning library is now where the King’s antechamber once was.
This must have book will enthrall readers with secrets of court life and the centuries of celebrations that have taken place within the walls of this palatial abode: from Fouquet’s final fling to the enchanting candlelit tours that still take place today. A DAY AT CHÂTEAU DE VAUX-LE-VICOMTE is a splendid introduction to the architecture, furnishings, interior design, and social history of one of Europe’s most famous homes.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS: Alexandre, Jean-Charles, and Ascanio de Vogüé, brothers and fifth generation members of the de Vogüé family, manage their ancestral estate. In 2012, they began to successfully develop a range of business ventures at the Vaux-le-Vicomte château. Bruno Ehrs is a lifestyle and architectural photographer; his photographs appear in One Savile Row (Flammarion, 2014).
© A Day at Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte by Alexandre de Vogüé, Jean-Charles de Vogüé, and Ascanio de Vogüé, Flammarion, 2015, photographs © Bruno Ehrs. No images may be used, in print or electronically, without written consent from the publisher. Serial rights are available; please contact Ron Longe @ (917) 312-5571.