Vaux le Vicomte

Vaux le Vicomte from nicolebeane.com in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Vaux le Vicomte (Image from nicolebeane.com)

Located 55 kilometers southeast of Paris, the estate of Vaux le Vicomte was purchased by an ambitious 26 year old Nicholas Fouquet in 1641. Upon his designation as superintendent of finances to King Louis XIV, he commissioned architect Louis le Vau, artist/painter Charles le Brun and landscape architect Andre le Notre, to create a grand chateau and gardens. Three villages were demolished for its creation, which took almost four years to complete (from 1658 – 1661), and was said to require thousands of caretakers to maintain.  Unfortunately, the extreme lavishness of the property caused the king to question misappropriation of funds, subsequently resulting in the young Fouquet’s arrest and banishment.

Palacio de Vaux le Vicomte from arqhys.com in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Palacio de Vaux le Vicomte (image from: arqhys.com)

After Fouquet’s displacement, the chateau Vaux le Vicomte changed hands several times, and at one point was abandoned for over thirty years.  In 1875, Alfred Sommier, a person with great vision, purchased the estate in a public auction.  Under the direction of architect Gabriel Hippolyte Destailleur, the pair spent decades restoring the buildings and gardens to their original grandeur.  When Alfred passed away in 1908, his son Edward and daughter in law carried on with the maintenance, and to this day Vaux le Vicomte is owned and preserved by their descendants.

Vaux le Vicomte from Wikipedia in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Vaux le Vicomte View (Image credit: Wikipedia)

As grand as the chateau is, I find the gardens more breathtaking both in their composition and magnitude.  Designed to complement the elaborate chateau, the gardens stretch well over a mile with fountains, gravel walks, embroidery parterres, canals and stone structures.  Employing an illusionary technique called anamorphosis abscondita, landscape architect Andre le Notre created a design perspective to make the farthest points appear closer.  From the top of the grand staircase, the entire garden feels within view, yet the grand sloping lawn is not visible until one explores further.  It is said that photos cannot fully capture the perspective, and that the gardens must be viewed in person to truly experience the beauty and magnificence they behold.  Yet, isn’t this so with even the most basic home garden?  The value of an in-person, hands-on visit can never be compared to a photograph, no matter its detail.

Vaux le Vicomte from castles.francethisway.com in A Garden For All by Kathy diemer https://agardenforall.com

Vaux le Vicomte (Image from: castles.francethisway.com)

Vaux le Vicomte will celebrate the 400th anniversary of designer Andre le Notre on April 13th.  It is an opportunity to appreciate the 17th century French formal garden and the harmonious relationship created between architect and landscape.  Even the grand Vaux le Vicomte can teach us lessons we can employ in our own gardens, just on a little smaller scale is all. (If you can’t go, visit the website: www.vaux-le-vicomte.com/en. It’s the next best thing to being there).

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