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Vaux-le-Vicomte

From Academic Kids

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a château located in Maincy, in the Seine-et-Marne département of France. It was built in the Baroque style, during the 17th century (16581661), for Nicolas Fouquet, the then superintendant of finances of Louis XIV.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was in many ways the most important work built in Europe before Louis XIV assumed personal control of the government. Here, together with the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape gardener André le Nôtre and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a new order: the "Magnificent Manner," involving a system of collective work, and could be applied to the creation of an entire landscape.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex. The château rises on an elevated platform, opened in the middle of the woods, and marks the border between unequal spaces, treated in a different way.

History

Once a small château located between the royal residences of Vincennes and Château de Fontainebleau in France, the estate of Vaux-le-Vicomte was purchased by a 26-year-old member of parlement, Nicolas Fouquet in 1641.

Fifteen years later, Fouquet was King Louis XIV's superintendent to finances (finance minister) and construction began on what was then the finest castle and garden in France. This achievement was brought about through the collaboration of three men of genius whom Fouquet had chosen for the task: the architect Louis Le Vau, the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun and the landscape gardener André Le Nôtre.

The castle and its patron became for a short time a great center of fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. In the inauguration of Fouquet's Vaux-le-Vicomte, Molière's paly was played, along with a dinner event, organized by Vatel, and showing an impressive firework show.

The castle was lavish, refined, and dazzling to behold, but rich in hidden drama. Indeed, the King had Fouquet arrested shortly after a famous fête that took place on August 17, 1661. The celebration had been too impressive and the superintendent's home too luxurious, and Jean-Baptiste Colbert had pushed the king to believe that his minister's magnificence was funded by the misappropriation of public funds. Later Voltaire was to sum up the famous fête thus: "On 17 August, at six in the evening Fouquet was the King of France: at two in the morning he was nobody."

After Nicolas Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The King seized, confiscated, and occasionally purchased, 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees. He then sent the team of Artists, Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun, off to design, what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-vicomte: Versailles, which would be changed sequentially by the greatest architects, increasing its size, until the French Revolution.

Madame Fouquet recovered her property 10 years later and retired there with her eldest son. After her husband's death in 1680, her son died too. In 1705 she decided to put Vaux-le-Vicomte up for sale.

Fouquet was arrested by Colbert, who would replace him as superintendent of finances, and, just as Fouquet, he would continue to improve France, and specifically Paris' Urban Landscape.

The Maréchal de Villars became the new owner although he had never even set eyes on the place. In 1764 the Maréchal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants were to maintain the property for over a century, until, after a thirty-year period of neglect, they put it up for sale.

In 1875, Alfred Sommier acquired Vaux-le-Vicomte at a public auction. The castle was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began. When Sommier died in 1908, the castle and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to work on the preservation of Vaux-le-Vicomte. The castle is now a private property named by the state a historical monument, and welcomes visitors.

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