Château of Vaux le Vicomte, Maincy, France

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 kilometres (34 mi) southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne département of France, located on the territory of the French town of Maincy (Seine-et-Marne), 50 km southeast of Paris, near Melun is a castle of the xvii th century (1658 – 1661), built for the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, Nicolas Fouquet.

The latter appealed to the best artists of the time to build this castle: the architect Louis Le Vau, first architect of the king (1656), the painter Charles Le Brun, founder of the Academy of painting (1648), the landscaper André Le Nôtre, Comptroller General of the King’s Buildings (1657) and Master Mason Michel Villedo. Their talents had already been gathered by the young Louis XIV to build wings at the castle of Vincennes in 1651-1653. King redo appeal to them to build the Palace of Versailles, the Vaux-le-Vicomte then serving as model.

The Castle, a masterpiece of classical architecture from the middle of the xvii th century, is now the largest privately owned France 2 classified as a historical monument 3, 4 since its purchase in July 1875 by Alfred Mattress who worked there as a patron, pursued by his descendants. It is now an annual budget of 8 million euros, employs 75 full-time employees and sends each year to more than 300 000 visitors experience the Grand Siècle French.


The construction of the present castle, and the park’s creation
Construction is progressing rapidly, but it requires the destruction of several houses and the leveling of the hills. In 1653 – 1654, Nicolas Fouquet asked the gardener André Le Nôtre to modify the pre-existing garden. From 1653 to 1654, the first waterworks were completed (20 km of piping) in the park and the extension of the large parterre. In 1655, the park is completely fenced; the small canal, the fountains, some flower beds and the large terrace alley are made. The crown floor is lengthened, making its different parts asymmetrical. In1655, the three beds in front of the castle are enlarged and remodeled. In 1655 – 1656, Nicolas Poussin is called to work on the decoration of the garden, while the terms are being realized in Italy. In 1656 – 1657, Daniel Gittard continues the work. The square basin and the central aisle are then landscaped, while the construction of the water grid is completed. In 1658 – 1660, the waterfall is built. Work is taking place at the site of the current Grand Canal, the caves are carved.

From September 1658, the painter Charles Le Brun settles in the castle. This one receives the visit of Cardinal Mazarin the June 25, 1659, of Louis XIV, of Monsieur (Philippe de France) his brother and of the queen mother Anne of Austria on July 14th.

The July 10, 1660the King and his wife, Queen Maria Theresa of Austria, stop there. The master of the house liked to receive the greatest spirits of his time such as Madeleine de Scudéry, Paul Pélisson or Jean de La Fontaine.

The July 12, 1661, Fouquet gives a party in honor of the queen mother of England Henriette of France and, on August 17, another in honor of Louis XIV. This feast, organized by François Vatel, was of a great splendor: shows using the most advanced techniques of the moment, performances of plays (including Les Fâcheux de Molière) and fireworks were among the festivities..

The September 5, 1661the king had Fouquet’s superintendent arrested after a council held at Nantes. At the Vaux-le-Vicomte site, all work is interrupted.

The aftermath of the arrest of Nicolas Fouquet
The seals were then affixed to Vaux, as to all his houses, and on the morning of the 7th of September, “two masters of the petitions presented themselves at the castle, partly dismantled, hangings arranged in the cupboard, curtains drawn on the tapestries, precious tableware, and prizes collected in a safe, ” where Captain Mathieu d’Angenville, exempt from the guards, established himself until 1665.

The Brun had gone leaving the objets d’art of his apartment; Vatel, compromised, fled to England; Ours had obtained to carry the plans of the gardens. Eight days later the inventory and the seizure of the papers took place.

During the course of the prosecution ordered by the king, Lefevre d’Ormesson issued to the magistrates in the pay of power the famous: “The Court renders judgments, not services”, which earned him the royal enmity.

In 1705, the second and last Fouquet, owner of Vaux, died without children in Paris.

The Duchy of Vaux-Villars
Three months later, his mother and heiress sold the estate and the viscount of Melun to the marshal de Villars, general of the armies, who, made hereditary duke by Louis XIV that same year, had to own a land seat of his new duchy, which took the name of Vaux-Villars, where his weapons replaced the squirrel Fouquet on some paneling and facades.

The less fortunate conqueror of Denain bought the domain by proxy – without having seen it – and then wrote: “The bride is too beautiful and it is expensive; too many waterfalls, too many fountains! ” Where, as a prudent and wise manager, buying surrounding land report.

More modern and comfortable furniture then takes place, as well as “108 skins of gilded leather”, the portrait of the marshal by Hyacinthe Rigaud and many large paintings representing his battles, by the workshop of Jean-Baptiste Martin said “Martin battles “. The new owner takes care of the maintenance (repairs of canals and water features) and enhances the area where, because of annual military campaigns, he stays only in winter. He played billiard and exhibited in the Commons several guns, trophies offered by the king.

The Duchy of Vaux-Praslin
The August 17, 1764, Caesar Gabriel de Choiseul-Praslin, cousin of the famous minister, duke and peer of Praslin, lieutenant-general, diplomat, minister of Foreign Affairs and Navy, member of the Council of the King, academician, buys the estate and gets from the king that the title, name, and pre-eminence of his lands are transferred to the duchy-duchy, which takes the name of Vaux-Praslin.

In 1770, he followed the disgrace of his cousin and was exiled to his duchy, where, like his predecessor, he respects the ancient decoration of the salons, keeps the paintings of the battles of Villars, deposits a large model of ship in memory of his Ministerial activities, modernized by the architect Berthier large apartments, but does not touch the gardens.

In 1842, Charles Laure Hugues Theobald, 5 th Duke of Praslin and his wife Françoise Alteria Rosalba Sebastiani della Porta, daughter of Marshal weapons former companion of Napoleon I er, are repairing the structure of the dome and replace the lantern by architect Louis Visconti; parterres, terraces and hydraulic structures are updated. The bathroom cabinet then sees its circular ceiling painted with children and garlands and adorned with their golden numeral.

The June 15, 1875, Alfred Sommier, sugar refiner and wealthy art lover, after visiting with his friend the bibliophile Gustave Guyot de Villeneuve, royalist prefect of Seine-et-Marne since 1873, impressed by the good state of conservation decorations two centuries old interior, decides to preserve this global work of art, whose apparent bad general state could make fear a demolition.

The only purchaser at the auction of the following July 6th, he then became the owner in three lots: the castle and its park, its important outbuildings and outbuildings, and three farms, an area of nearly 1,000 hectares that he bought for 2,275,400 gold francs (currently € 7 million).

Sales of furniture and works of art
After the public auctions of 1786, 1792 and 1808 of the enormous collection of works of art created by the Choiseuls in a century, a sale of the granaries of the castle took place on the spot.

The 3, 4, and April 5, 1876were auctioned off at the Hôtel Drouot by the auctioneer Charles Pillet and the expert Charles Manheim the numerous furniture and tapestries of the Praslin furniture of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which was painted by Benjamin-Eugène Fichel; the painting was also sold in Drouot-Richelieu on 22/06/2017; among his 296 lots were a portiere of the Gobelins’ Unicorn, paintings, Jean-Baptiste Santerre, Jean-François de Troy), works of art, including a famous ebony and golden bronzes regulator by Ferdinand Berthoud, Balthazar Lieutaud and Philippe Caffieri, and the books excluded from the cession of the castle by the 6th Duke of Praslin, with the exception two large oval ceremonial tables with richly carved pedestals, the last witnesses of the Fouquet furniture, four busts, two great ancient athletes and seven paintings of the Villars heritage – which have remained.

Are presumed to have been part of this furniture: a secretary or desk with a Transition period, by François-Gaspard Teuné, sold in Monaco on June 17, 2000, reproduced by Angie Barth and a clock on console applies motion Mynuel Louis (1730), reproduced by John Nereus Ronfort and Jean-Dominique Augard.

Older at the castle, a gilded carved wooden table (Paris, Musée du Louvre) was reproduced by Gustave Geffroy; two tapestries woven in Maincy for Fouquet on drawings by Charles Le Brun (1659-1660) were on sale François Coty, in Paris on November 30 and1 st December 1936.

The Sommier, saviors of a masterpiece in danger
“He himself, his wife and children lived in Vaux with the respect and admiration of this beauty, which they recreated with pious care without yielding to the temptation to create the lifestyle of the past. »

The Mattress remeublèrent Castle by mixing antique pieces and furniture inspired by the style of the xvii th century – retained in part – by surrounding advice of the architect and decorator Emile Peyre, with many Parisian antique dealers, and by making a furniture appropriate style building, like a sumptuous pool inspired by the works of André Charles Boulle by the cabinetmaker Henry Dasson.

A general restoration of the buildings was then undertaken from 1875 to 1893 by the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the unknown Elie Lainé for the gardens, and from July 1877 the Sommier family will stay there every year from June to December. The restoration of the estate would have cost him 5.6 million gold francs.

After World War II
The June 30, 1918, Georges Clemenceau, President of the Council and Minister of War, it stops on the way to General Headquarters of the Armed to the castle of Bombon, with the head of the military office the General Mordacq to see the auxiliary military hospital n o 23 created at the beginning of the war in the commons by Germaine Sommier (1881-1968), nee Casimir-Périer, endowed with an exemplary X-ray installation, and where were treated 1,115 wounded. He has lunch at the castle and is photographed with the team of the hospital and General Mordacq on the front porch overlooking the gardens. The 1 st following July, M meSommier is quoted to the order of the Army, with attribution of the cross of war.

the July 12, 1918 Generals Foch and Weygand do the same, and Foch, who became Marshal of France, returns there on September 1 st.

The domain then belongs to Count Patrice de Vogüé, who receives it from his father Jean de Vogüé, nephew of Edme Sommier (died in 1945 without posterity), during his marriage in 1967. It is Patrice de Vogüé who opens the the estate, park and castle, to the public visits: inauguration is done on March 22, 1968. Work is carried out and his wife opens a restaurant, of 6 covers at the origin and which serves 600 persons per day in 2018. In the 1980s are also created candlelit dinners for the visitors.

Description of the castle

General organization
The castle comprises a hundred rooms for a surface area of 2,500 m 2, spread over three levels under a roof of 3,500 m 2.

The castle retains the traditional French feudal plan rectangular platform surrounded by large moats in water, which he occupies the south. Two doors connected the house to the rest of the garden.

The wings almost does not exist, this type of architecture is apparent during the first half of the xvii th century. The castle has a central body with three forequarters on the courtyard side and a rotunda in the center of the facade overlooking the gardens.

There are four pavilions, two of rectangular shape, garden side, and two others of square form court side, which, seen laterally, seem nevertheless twin, tradition of the French architecture.

The open character of the building and the so-called “massed” plan are characteristic of the time.

There is however an innovation, because the French castle usually comprises a series of pieces going from one end to the other of the building, provision known as “simple body” or “en enfilade”. In Vaux, the architect demonstrates innovation by organizing the interior space with a double row of parallel rooms with aligned doors or “double body”.

This type of organization of a building was already used by Louis Le Vau at the Hotel Tambonneau in 1640 and by François Mansart at the Hotel de Jars in 1648, but is here applied for the first time to a castle.

The “rotunda” living room – from the Italian rotonda – a unique piece, is another originality. The whole, formed by the vestibule and this big space, forms like a central bay. This arrangement, also known as “lantern”, allows the visitor to have a crossing view in the axis of honor-perron-vestibule-alley in perspective of the gardens located on the other side, around which gravitate two parts each with a staircase.

In the ground floor, garden side, are two apartments; one, destined for the king, is on the left, while the other, on the right, is that of Nicolas Fouquet.

The rooms of the ground floor side are, in 1661, rooms completing the two apartments side garden; it is a room used as dining room, a room appeared in France in the middle of the xvii th century.

The basement is partially buried, which allows the establishment of a massed plan. A longitudinal corridor runs through the basement, occupied by kitchens, offices and officers’ rooms.

The kitchen is the opposite of the dining room, but communicates with the buffet on the ground floor through the longitudinal corridor. Two side corridors were added in 1659 by order of Vatel, then maître d’hôtel of Nicolas Fouquet.

On the first floor is also a longitudinal corridor. At the place corresponding to the vestibule was in the time of Nicolas Fouquet a chapel, courtyard side.

To the left are Fouquet’s apartments on the courtyard side, and his wife’s garden side, twelve meters in front of an antechamber, of a bedroom (the main room of an apartment where the family has free access is the place of sociability where one sleeps, one receives and one takes the meals there) and a study.

Currently the chamber M me Fouquet is divided into two parts, a cabinet Louis XV and Louis XV bedroom.

The right side of the first floor is only briefly worked.


Ground floor
The central area, called “guard room” of the xvii th to the xix th century, is unique in the history of French architecture: its originality comes from its oval shape, unusual at the time for a reception room.

It comprises two floors, according to the so-called “Italian style”, and is covered with curvings, which is characteristic of this architecture, but the oval ” vessel ” in front is a French invention.

In the Le Vau Project, one of the patronage conventions contemplated between the association La Demeure historique and the owners, is to restore the glass doors to create a symbiosis between the home and the gardens.

The ceiling of the dome was originally to be painted from the Palais du Soleil by Charles Le Brun representing the solar star with the emblem of Fouquet, the squirrel, whose drawing was engraved by Audran, but this important decoration was not realized, and the vault remained in plaster for two centuries, until in 1844 or 1845 the Duke of Choiseul-Praslin asked the painter-decorator Dutenhoffer to quantify his execution. Judging it too expensive, he did not follow up but let the artist begin “a sky with eagles with spread wings” (a large center surrounded by five others, erased but still visible) according to his judicial statement of August, 1847 published by Patrice de Vogüé, which contradicts the attribution of this decoration to Charles Séchan, “the illustrious decorator of the Paris Opera” according to Théophile Gautier, who indicates that he realized for the Turkish sultan a Louis XIV salon destined for the palace of Dolmabahçe, visited by him in 1852.

The dome is supported by a series of sixteen great terms carved by François Girardon, twelve bear the signs of the zodiac and four, the symbols of the four seasons. The floor is made of white stone and slate with a sundial in the center.

The piece is decorated with four busts of the time of Fouquet representing Roman characters: Octavie, sister of Auguste, Britannicus, Octavie, wife of Néron, and Hadrien; the other twelve Roman busts sculpted in Florence at the xvii th century from the Pompeian villa (destroyed) Prince Napoleon, Avenue Montaigne in Paris.

The rooms on the ground floor, garden side, are also arches.

The salon of Hercules, antechamber of the apartment of Fouquet, is adorned with a painted ceiling of a scene representing a Hercules welcomed by Olympus. The medallions and panels adorning the voussure represent the twelve works of Hercules by Le Brun.
The chamber of Muses – Fouquet’s room – is decorated with a ceiling and a voussure of Le Brun. This decoration represents The Triumph of Fidelity, an allusion to the fidelity of Nicolas Fouquet to the king during the Fronde. Eight muses are distributed in the four corners of the arch. Figures between the muses represent the poetic genres. In the middle of the sides are the figures of Nobility and Peace, and a victory of the muses on the satyrs. The voussure evokes the patronage of Nicolas Fouquet. The walls are covered by a “support” paneling and five tapestries that make up the hanging of The Story of Diana. The room also includes an alcove with a ceiling of Le Brun representing La Nuit.

There is a fireplace called “Roman” which, unlike fireplaces “French”, comes out of the wall.

The small cabinet of the games, which was that of Fouquet, has a ceiling of Le Brun representing Le Sommeil. The voussure and paneling are decorated with a variety of animals. An ice cream is not original.

The antechamber of the king (current library) is unfinished; it is marked by the alternation of paintings and reliefs: the central oval of the ceiling has a painting of the xviii th century, as the draft Le Brun, unknown, has not been realized. In the center of the voussures are four paintings: Diane taking off her shoes after the hunt, Love and Lightning, Achilles imploring Venus to return the shield that Love has stolen from her, Love and a vine stock. The library mahogany body dated xviii th century. The angles of the voussures include Fouquet’s figure. The flat desk assigned to André-Charles Boulle comes from the library of Pierre Randon de Boisset (1709-1777), a great lover of this cabinetmaker’s furniture, his Parisian hotel in the rue Neuve des Capucines, acquired in 1768.

The king’s room (a tradition of creating such a room when the royal court was itinerant) is also unfinished: even if it is the most richly decorated room of the castle (stuccoes embellished with gold leaves including lions cast representing royal power, trophies), Louis XIV never slept there. On the frieze of palmettes at the base of the cornice of the ceiling, scallops alternate with squirrels, element of the coat of arms of Fouquet, at the corners of this frieze of palmettes represent a tower with three battlements, coat of arms of Mary Magdalene of Castile, second wife of Foucquet. At the corners of the voussure are stuccoes in the form of winged figures, helmeted angels, garlands framing the letters “F” (Fouquet) intertwined in silver crowns; on the ceiling is a painting of The Truth supported by Time, and in the glasses are represented gods symbolizing the genius of Fouquet: Bacchus for Abundance, Mars for Value, Mercury for Vigilance and Jupiter for Power. Leda, Diane, fighter riders, and the Fates are present in octagonal medallions. The alcoveThe ceiling of the room is not finished, as the ceiling is unpainted, as is the king’s study: framed by dressers, a large Regency-style bed features an embroidered tapestry depicting The Story of Psyche.

The dining room has a coffered ceiling, characteristic of French architecture. Each box receives a table; four, inscribed in rectangular compartments and represent Apollo (fire), Diana (air), Flora or Ceres (Earth) and Tritons and naiads (water). In the octagonal compartments of the ceiling are each of the seasons. At the center of the ceiling is Peace bringing back the Abundance of Charles Le Brun, allusion to the peace of the Pyrenees (1659).

The eight circular or octagonal medallions above the doors tell the story of Io. The arcade overlooking the buffet features trophies of War and Peace. The ice does not date from Fouquet.

The square room would have belonged to Fouquet’s apartment. In 1661, six tapestries from Le Brun’s cartoons were hanged under a painting showing the siege of Friborg commanded by Marshal Villars.

1 st floor
The bedroom of Fouquet’s apartment is the only room on the first floor that has retained its original decor. The ceilings of the room and the alcove are decorated with a cupola-shaped trompe l’oeil.

The apartment M me Fouquet was composed entirely of ice and included an antechamber, a bedroom and a closet. The room and the hall have been completely redesigned to xviii th century.

The cabinet contains on the ceiling an oval with a painting representing the sky; the coat of arms of M me Fouquet is in the corners.

Description of the park
In 1641, Nicolas Fouquet bought the estate of Vaux le Vicomte twenty years later.

With a maximum length of gardens (from the gate of honor to Hercules) of 1500 m and an average width of 200 to 250 m, the park has a total surface of 500 ha and is enclosed by a wall of 13 km speaker.

The gardens to the south of the castle are remarkable in their size and style. Trees and shrubs trimmed (9 km of bower for high hedges, 300 yew and boxwood for low hedges and topiaries), ponds, statues and well-ordered paths make it a French garden. To draw them, its designer, Le Nôtre, uses the optical effects and the laws of perspective; the red of the “embroidery” and the beds is made of crushed brick.

The arrival at the castle is done by a bilateral alignment of 257 plane trees. The two lines of trees are very close to the road since they are only six meters away. With the size of tree barrels, this causes an impressive “tunnel” effect; this 1,400 meter long alignment is classified as a historical monument.

The garden consists of three parts:

the first includes a courtyard and a forecourt;
the second part of the castle and stops at the small canals;
the third part consists of what is beyond the small canals.
The garden is marked by a slowed down perspective: the more the elements of the garden are far from the castle, the longer or higher they are. Thus, the parterre of “embroidery” is three times smaller than the lawn at the end of the garden. Similarly, the square basin is eight times larger than the round of water. The sculptures near the castle are three times lower than the terms of the caves.

This process to crush the perspective, to make the garden smaller than it is in reality, is used in France in the 1630s, but Le Nôtre amplifies it.

The forecourt is separated from the road by a set of grids and terms. Two gates on the gate do not serve as an entrance, because it is through the central grid, more modest, that we can access the park. The grid has eight pillars surmounted by two-sided busts of Greek gods, fauns and allegories of the seasons, sculptures that echo the terms in the grotto of the garden.

The fence allows to see not only the castle, but also, the oval living room is closed only grids, the crossing perspective that leads to the bottom of the garden (1 800 meters).

The gardens extend from the castle consist of terraces with beds and nothing except cones plants whose height increased at the end of the xix th century and beginning of the xx th century, disturbs his dominant horizontal.

The beds of “embroidery”, the closest to the castle were considered at the time of Fouquet as the most noble ornament of a garden. Their first use dates from 1595 for the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

The current state of embroidery is a reconstruction of the xx th century, more or less true: the scrolls were finer, yellow sand contrasted with coal chippings, and the edges of flowerbeds were finer. To the right of the embroidery beds is a flower bed that is located off-center.

André Le Nôtre preferred grass, less subject to the seasons. The current state is recent, the lawn having been covered with grass and then flowered again.

The crown floor, on the left, has a golden royal crown located in the center of a pond, in homage to the king, whose room on the ground floor is also located in the left part of the park. These two beds are asymmetrical with respect to the central axis of the garden.

South of this set is a transverse axis: on its left is the water grid, whose name comes from water jets in the form of a grid.

In contrast, to the right of the central axis, is a real grid to give on a kitchen garden that Le Nôtre did not have time to complete.

A third transverse axis separates the cave from the gardens. This presence of transverse axes intersecting a longitudinal axis allows Le Nôtre to give a certain dynamism to the composition of the park, thus breaking with the gardens of the Renaissance, ordered with a perfect symmetry.

The castle is reflected in the square basin, located 500 meters from it. It is for the grand canal that Le Nôtre does the most work.

View of the castle the cave seems to be located just after the large basin, gold, between them is the great channel, 875 meters long and 35 wide. Indeed, Le Nôtre has created a difference in level masking the canal in the eyes of the visitor, to appear only at his approach.

The cave, located beyond the Grand Canal, is due to Le Nôtre and Le Brun who drew the sculptures. The caves have been appreciated since the Renaissance, when ancient villas were discovered buried in the ground, which gave the word grotesque to designate their painted or carved walls, which became a decorative motif.

In Vaux-le-Vicomte, its originality lies in the fact that its facade has a flat surface, whereas traditionally it has a cavern shape; it presents traditional elements like the boss and the terms, but here these characters are tempered by their adaptation to the ground.

Facing the cave are the waterfalls, invisible from the castle. This type of architecture, recently in France and dates from the first half of the xvii th century. The cave is largely of rough stone; the sculptures were designed by Charles Le Brun and made by Matthieu Lespangnel.

The river statues on the sides represent The Tiber and The Anqueil. Eight Atlanteans frame seven niches that contain artificial rocks. From a distance, the cave seems made of stone barely worked and the niches seem to shelter very elaborate sculptures, but close up, it is the opposite. It is framed by stairs, ramps and terraces. At the foot of the stairs are four sculptures from the xix th century, which were provided at the time of Nicolas Fouquet.

The castle and its park are the fifth tourist destination of the department of Seine-et-Marne, with attendance in 2008 of 261 000 visitors, up 2% from 2007. The castle was the subject of a major restoration in 2016-2017, which includes the painting The Triumph of Loyalty

The castle hosted, from 2001 to 2009, the festival Open air, in the courtyard.

The house and its grounds were used as the Californian home of the main villain Hugo Drax (played by Michael Lonsdale) in the 1979 James Bond film Moonraker.[16] It can also be seen in the background in the 1998 film The Man in the Iron Mask. In addition, the château appeared in several episodes of The Revolution, which is a documentary television series about the American Revolutionary War that was broadcast by History in 2006. Australia’s Next Top Model had a fashion shoot at the chateau for its 7th Cycle (Episode 02), televised in August 2011. A confused retelling of the Vaux-le-Vicomte story was given by character Little Carmine Lupertazzi in season 4 of HBOs The Sopranos. More recently it has featured as the Palace of Versailles for BBC/Canal+ production of the TV drama series Versailles.

The place is a major setting of Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later.