talking about gardens in France, we have to pay attention to the Vaux-le-Vicomte
Chateau and its gardens in the first place. Some of you may wonder why
the focus is firstly drawn on Vaux-le-Vicomte, a name which sounds less
familiar than, for example, the well-known Versailles. The truth is that
Vaux-le-Vicomte marks the beginning of a new size-based style in garden
building and as a matter of fact, it is the predecessor of the Versailles
Palace and Park.
gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte were built in the 17th century by the order
of Nicolas Fouquet, the finance minister of King Louis XIV. Fouquet hired
three professionals, namely Le Notre (a landscape gardener), Le Brun (a
decorator) and Le Vau (an architect), who eventually produced an incredible
work of art, the beauty of which amazed even the King. In order for the
construction to take place, three villages had to be moved away and a river
had to be diverted (it covers an area of around 100 acres). 18,000 workers
in total were employed and the work was finished for 5 years (1656-1661).
lanes, having the shape of sunrays, lead to the park entrance. The composition
of the park is concentrated around the central alley, which represents
its main axis, and three other cross axes. The first of these axes actually
lies parallel to a drawbridge, located in front of the built-on-a-terrace
chateau, which connects the building with the main garden. The second axis
is marked by a round basin and the third one – by the river canal. In front
of the chateau, as well as on both sides of it, spread out “embroidered”
parterres, the decoration of which speaks of the baroque influence. The
main axis runs on straight until it reaches a square basin, beyond which
is the river canal. The paths around the square basin afford one of the
most beautiful views to the grotto and the cascade. The latter is a large
terrace-like construction with seven bays from which the water flows down
and forms various shapes. It is thought that the creator of the architectural
design of the grotto was Le Notre. The design of the park is actually an
expression of the architect’s new perceptions of the art of gardening.
Le Notre handles with exclusiveness the principles of perspective and optical
illusion, shapes perfectly the parterres and water areas, and uses his
innovative skills to decorate with sculptures.
Vaux-le-Vicomte Park is also the first French park to contain such abundance
of sculptures, which at that time were very rare. Among those sculptural
elements are 13 fountains, made of stone and marble, and 24 statues and
figures of animals.
those of you interested in the history behind the gardens, let us offer
you a few facts about the Vaux-le-Vicomte. The story goes that Louis XIV
had heard about the awesome chateau and park and wanted to go on a visit.
The King was cordially welcomed by Fouquet who did his best to make Louis
XIV enjoy his stay. However, instead of being flattered by his minister’s
warm hospitality, the King grew very suspicious about how Fouquet paid
for his luxurious residence. Fouquet was eventually arrested on charges
of embezzlement and sent to prison. The King confiscated the larger part
of the property and later, brought some of it to his residence in Versailles.
The famous gardens of Vaux-le-Vicomte are well-preserved today thanks to
the Sommier family who bought the estate at the end of the 19th century
and worked on restoring it.