Vaux le Vicomte !!!

I like to write about Vaux le Vicomte, the castle in Maincy, Seine et Marne dept77 of the ïle de France region of my belle France. This is home territory almost, as been by here and visited the castle several times, also, Friend of the Castle since 2004, I have written other posts but this one will be unique, I will tell you about the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte from their book brochure purchase at the castle’ boutique ! Hope you enjoy it as I.

Chateau Vaux le Vicomte brochure visit

The main personage here is Nicolas Fouquet that ordered the creation of the castle, His father François Fouquet was the confidant of Cardinal Richelieu for maritime commercial business, By 1648 the treasury was in ruined due to bad management, It is at this time that Nicolas Fouquet enters into history, been name Superintendant of finances in 1653 name to the post by Cardinal Mazarin, He had already collaborated before with Cardinal Mazarin as been counselor to the parliament of Metz, intendant of Dauphiné, general procuror of the parliament of Paris, He was a man of letters having read and become friend with La Fontaine, Moliére, Le Nôtre, Poussin, Puget, Le Brun, La Quintinie etc.

He is taken to collaborate with the secretary of Cardinal Mazarin, Jean-Baptiste Colbert , At the death of Mazarin, in 1661 ; Colbert charge against Fouquet blaming him of all problems, He charges with the king Louis XIV to have an eye on the fortifications been done in the castle of Fouquet in Belle Île en Mer (Morbihan 56) , Nicolas Fouquet tries to come intime with Mlle de Lavalliére that was the first favorite of king Louix XIV which brings him more trouble and non trust,Therefore, from 1661 Louis XIV take his decision that Nicolas Fouquet will be put in jail, The king asked to come back to Vaux le Vicomte, and there on August 17 1661 is giving a grand party, Three weeks later on September 5 1661 on orders of Louis XIV , Fouquet is arrested at Nantes by D’Artagnan captain of the Muskeeteers, After 3 years of judgement, he is put in prison and for the first time in the history of France the sentence by the judges is even taken higher by the king;life in prison. He has defenders such as La Fontaine and Mme de Sévigné, Nevertheless, escorted by muskeeteers he is taken first to the prison of Pignerol in the Alps of Savoie in a fortress where he was in prison and very well guarded, He died there March 23 1680.

Fouquet purchased in 1641 the lordship of Vaux-le-Vicomte that had a small castle, He had other properties such as Saint Mandé near the Château de Vincennes but he chose Vaux half way between Vincennes and Fontainebleau where he chose to do his masterpiece.  He hired the architect Louis le Vau who had already several great works, Also, Charles le Brun the painter who also set up the tapestries shop on the village adjacent Maincy, Finally ,André le Nôtre the gardener who already had work at the jardin des Tuileries , They had collaborators such as the sculptor Michel Anguier,Thibault, Poissant, Girardon, Legendre, the carpinters Jacques Prou, the gold layer Gougeon de la Baronniére, etc, By August 17 1661 while the party to the king was going we see the castle, and gardens were as we see them today! After his arrestation, the most beautiful furniture, tapestries, marble statues, and portraits were taken and put in the Louvre or Versailles, The castle was closed and 12 years later given to the wife and oldest son of Fouquet, the Count of Vaux in 1673. Thanks to the agriculture work and forest wood, they were able to repaid all the debt, The Count of Vaux left in minor posts died in 1705 without heirs, His younger brother Louis Fouquet run the same way but his son Louis Charles Armand Fouquet having the skills of his grandfather manage to erase the bad rumours of the king, He became the Marshal of Belle Île and later made Duke by king Louis XV, One of his cousins, Duke of Charost son of the oldest son of Nicolas Fouquet will be name governor by Louis XV in 1722.

The castle of Vaux le Vicomte is sold after the death of the oldest son by Mme Fouquet in 1705 to the Marshal Villars and the castle takes his name Château Villars,,Voltaire come for dinners, and presentations, The castle and gardens stayed the same no changes during this period, Upon the death of Villars in 1734 nobody lives in the castle, the castle is owned by the son Duke de Villars and Prince de Martigues that does nothing but sell the lead pipes to pay his debts and by 1764 he sells the castle to the Duke of Choiseul-Praslin, Now the castle is name Château de Vaux-Praslin, He gives nothing to the castle ; but his descendants keeps the castle for six generations, They protect the castle from demolition during the French revolution due to an audace negotiation of the Duchess of Choiseul-Pralin, In 1815, it was the Prussian and Russians who come to the castle, In 1847 the 5th Duke of Praslin killed his wife daughter of Marshal Sébastiani  and killed himself in prison, The heirs of Vaux transfer their domicile to the commons area and the castle is abandoned, The nature takes over the castle, In 1875, they decided to put for sale the castle.

The prefet of the Seine et Marne suggest to one of his friends Alfred Sommier to visit the castle, this young industrialist had a passion for the arts, and he is impressed by the beautiful art inside the castle , In July 6 1875 in the public sale he wins the purchase of the castle, He starts the reconstruction and decoration of the castle immediately, Even if the gardens took 50 years to redo, This was finally done almost by his death in 1908, His son and daughter in law finished the work, Upon the request of Count Jean de Vogüe grandson of Alfred Sommier the entire property was name to the rank of historical monuments of France in 1965.

You enter the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte by the vestibule lobby with giants busts of Septime Sévére and Lucius Verus that takes you to the grand salon by three monumental doors, In arriving to the apartments by a grand stair of the Renommées done in the Gobelins tapestry with the arms of Navarre and France and nearby the military campaigns of Louis XIV and a portrait of Louis XIV, The west and east wings are the small apartments that lived Nicolas Fouquet and Madame Fouquet, which later in the 18C became the guest rooms of Villars and Choiseuil-Praslin.  On the grand hallway you see illustrations of the life of Fouquet and the castle Vaux le Vicomte, A general view of Rome reminds of the importance of Rome in the 17C on the artists, You arrive at the antichamber of Fouquet done as close as possible to that of 1661, Here he received his guest and several portraits such as my favorite David and Bathsheba by Paolo Veronese, At the center of the antichamber you see the big desk aka Mazarin with wood and filet of golden copper, a poem songe d’Adonis (dream of) by Jean de La Fontaine, and above the desk a portrait by Antonio Moro, Nain du Cardinal de Granvelle,(Dwarf of).

We go on to the bedroom of Fouquet, The decoration has been respected since built by Fouquet and others so intact ! The ceiling is done by Le Brun, The principal part is Apolo shown the light of the world and at each corner a medallion with a goddess Olimpia, Jupiter, Juno, Neptune and Cybele, the central oval shown four scenes mythologics such as Diana and Actaeon,Diana and Calypso, Apollo and Marsyas, and Apollo and the Serpent Python, The walls have tapestries of Mois Lucas these were destroyed to use their gold but some copies survived and were redone by 1715, those shown now were done at the Gobelins factory on orders of the Count of Toulouse son of Louis XIV, On top of the chimney you see a portrait by Charles le Brun, « L’Amour fixé or La Beauté coupant les ailes de l’Amour pour qu’il demeure toujours auprés d’elle «  or Love fixed or Beauty clipping the wings of Love so that he may always remain with her , with traits of Marie Madeleine of Castille that Nicolas Fouquet had second married in 1651,

Now the Cabinet of Mme Fouquet by the valet room a door takes you to the cabinet of Madame Fouquet, They were decorated with glass portraits but nothing is left today, On top of the chimney you see a portrait of Nicolas Fouquet done by Charles le Brun during the construction of the castle,There is a nice cabinet in lacquer of Japan closed at the time diamonds, jewerly and gold coins were kept.

You have the cabinet Louis XV a small room on the former bedroom of Mme Fouquet, it had the toilet, bathtub, bidet, and wc, ,then the bedroom Louis XV it was probably one of the room for guests of marshal and duchess of Villars with comfort and fantasies, Decorated with nice flowers and colors and a large canopy bed.  The bedroom Louis XVI, the apartment created by Praslin 20 years before the French revolution, Done in the Louis XV style and wooden forms done locally, An alcove bed, a long chair lounge type, small furniture and trinkets ; all done on wallpaper,

There is another grand stair with a portrait of queen Anne of Austria by Testelin and original views of the gardens of Vaux le Vicomte engrave by Silvestre, The stair has models of the layout of Le Nôtre, Vaux-Praslin, and Fouquet. You come now to the Grands Apartments , Galerie Villars connects with the stair holding documents related to the career of Marshal Villars, second owner of the castle, A nice bust of Voltaire done by FM Poncet This was before a service room with great lamp work such as fuel and cleaning. The Grand square room is the only one with a traditional ceiling à la Française In 1661 six tapestries were done in Maincy by sketches of Le Brun representing the history of Iphigenia, You have here portraits of Villars by Rigaud and others of his family. The Gallery Sommier,overlooks the moat and dominates the garden and the grove of Alexander, It houses portraits of the Sommier family, that we owe the rebirth of Vaux le Vicomte.

The Salon des Muses or muse lounge that takes the name from 9 muses that are in the ceiling thought by Charles le Brun one of the most beautiful in the castle, You have Clio muse of history appears on the central canvas in the company of Prudence and Fidelity and takes Fouquet’s motto to heaven, The other 8 muses are shown in the corners of the ceiling, Erato, Polymmia, Thalia, Melpomene, Callioppe, Urania, Terpsichore, and Euterpe, This lounge was the get together room of the marshal and duchesse Villars and where Louis XV and queen Marie Leczinska were welcome,It was here in July 12 1661 that Moliére interpret l’école de Maris in front of the invited persons such as Henriette de France, queen of England, and her daughter Henriette of England, duchess of Orléans, On each side of the room you see the bust of Le Nôtre by the alcove side, and of Charles le Brun by the windows side. The Cabinet des Jeux or games room in the street level of the castle or first floor, Flowers guirlandes, love and painted with finisse, in the center of the celing Le Brun represent Sommeil (sleep) the best of the painter, Leaving this room you see in line 7 state rooms that shows the taste of Fouquet for the refinement and beauty.

You come to my favorite the Salon d’Hercule the ceiling with painting of Le Brun with Hercules the symbol of the force and power of Fouquet, in the center of the ceiling Le Brun represented Hercules welcomed into olympus by Jupiter ,Diane, and Juno, On top of the chimney, a portrait by Van Loo of king Louis XV, as well as other paintings, Facing the windows a portrait of Palatine, second wife of Monsieru, brother of king Louis XIV amongst others, Facing the chimney, a grand painting of the Siége et la victoire de Fribourg en Brisgau 1713, On each side of this painting the busts by Coysevox of Marshal de Villars and by the window the Grand Condé, In the center an equestrian bronce model of Louis XIV done by Girardon in 1699, This bust was done for the Place Vendôme in Paris but destroyed in the French revolution.

Come to the Grand Salon, it has 18 meters long and 18 meters high and was not yet completed when the party of August 16 1661 offered to king Louis XIV, The room stays intact from the day of Fouquet arrestation ! The oval perimeter is with 16 arcades and 16 doric pilastresn by the first floor the windows almost squares followed arcades showing the twelve signs of the zodiac and the four seasons below it, In 1661 Le Brun was ready to paint the Palais du Soleil or sun palace but was never finished, the designs are kept today at the Louvre, At the foot of the pilastres M Sommier had place 12 busts in marble of emperors and Roman personages Italian works from the 17C coming from the collection of Prince Napoléon. The four busts place under the columns that are in the north and south doors have never left Vaux le Vicomte since 1661.

You come to the Library it was the antichamber and in the corners and arms of Mme Fouquet, In the center arches four scenes en monochrome, Diana taking off her shoes after the hunt, Cupid and Lightning, Achilles imploring Venus to return to him the shield which Cupid stole from him, and Cupid and a vine stock, The body of the library is in mahogany wood style Louis XVI put up before the French revolution by the duke of Choiseul-Praslin, On top of the chimney a portrait of Louis XIV,by Houasse.

The king’s bedroom showing for the first time the style and decoration that would be later in Versailles and all of Europe. The ceiling by Le Brun « Le Temps enlevant au ciel la Vérité »,or Time taking away the Truth from the sky,and on the corners four gods Mars or courage, Jupiter or power, Mercury or vigilance, and vertue or abundance, and further the corners monochromes of Diana, Leda, and the Swan, Parks spinning destiny, and knights combat,The alcove has a grand bed Régence with tapestries representing the history of psyche with commodes on each side the same as those made in 1705 for Louis XIV in Trianon now Versailles. Facing the chimney a great tapestry of Mois or Maisons Royales representing the Château de Versailles, a big bust of Louis XIV in carrera marble, The tapestry of the Savonnerie and one of the 93 carpets done for the Grande Galerie du Louvre.

Former cabinets of the king next to the royal bedroom stayed incomplete, They were to be done by Le Brun but stop after the arrestation of Fouquet you passed by two small rooms that served in the 17C as bathrooms and sleeping quarter for the servants. The Salle des Buffets, probably the dining room of Fouquet has sobriety and beauty,The ceiling is La Paix ramenant l’Abondance an illusion to the peace of the Pyrénées of 1659, Around it the four elements painted in golden monochrome such as Apollo on the chariot of the sun, or the fire, the tritons and the naiads or the water, flora which spreads flowers or the earth, Diana riding the clouds or the air, and in gray shades the Four Seasons.

The Chambre de la Fontaine, this room brings the souvenir of La Fontaine, the protector of Fouquet and Vaux le Vicomte.  The poet who published courages verses in support of the cause of Fouquet, especially the work « Elégie aux Nymphes de Vaux » or Elegy to the Nymphs of Vaux, His bust in terrecotte done by Houdon in 1782 is place on the chimney.  A large screen with branches shows the fables of La Fontaine from cartoons of Desportes, At the end of the room, are le Renard et les Raisins, Le Loup et la Cigogne, Le Corbeau et le Renard, Le Coq et la Perle, Le Renard et le Coq, and Le Cerf se mirant dans l’eau, For reference roughly translated are The Fox and the Grapes, The Wolf and the Stork, The Crow and the Fox, The Rooster and the Pearl, The Fox and the Rooster, and The Deer reflected in the water.

From the above room, you take a stone stair down to the basement. The plans of Le Vau indicate the use of each room, sommelier for the fruits, kitchen for the extraordinary, room of the expense, room for the officer, room for the common room for the officers, One of this room was taken to house the monumental archive of the Duke of Villars that were employed at the head of the king’s army made him obligated to keep these documents, These archieves are still for the most part kept in the castle by the Marquis de Vogüé.  The big kitchen was change in 1875 and in service until 1956, Here cook François Vatel that after the arrestation of Fouquet went over to the Château de Chantilly !

The gardens of Vaux le Vicomte are marvelous ! Between André le Nôtre and Nicolas Fouquet a friendship was strong due to both love of the arts and gardens, From 1661 Vaux le Vicomte took the French garden to a higher level,500 hectares of woods, valleys, pasture land all virgin for Le Nôtre to do his magic. In making a garden of 70 hectares Le Nôtre and Le Vau joint forces to bring the best of architecture with nature. The gardens of Vaux le Vicomte confirmed to Louis XIV the renown of André le Nôtre that gives him the order to do Versailles for the next century the heirs of Le Nôtre spread to all of Europe the principals applied in Vaux le Vicomte. Thanks to the designs of Le Nôtre and the engravings of Israël Silvestre M Alfred Sommier was able to recontruct these gardens after the period of neglect, To reinstall the set of pipes of a total of 20 km , which distribute the water, replant the arbours of 9 km, and some 300 large shrubs of boxwood and yew regularly pruned , to replace the statues that had been seized by Louis XIV, M Alfred Sommier acquired statues, some old, others commissioned from sculptors of his time and which were put in place from 1880, I love the statue of L’Anqueuil ,the river god sculpted by Lespanandel for the caves of Vaux-le-Vicomte. And the Rond d’Eau surrounded by four statues of the 17C. You passed the Grille d’Eau with its water jets ; it was in front of it that Moliére played for the first time in front of the Court in August 16 1661 , the play « Les Fâcheux « Or The Annoying Ones! You reach the end once the forest is seen with a replica of the Hercule Farnée in gilded lead executed by J Tournois and melted by Thiébaud in 1891 completes the perspective.

In 1967, Patrice de Vogüé, a descendant of the Sommiers, received the castle as a wedding gift. In 1968, he decided to open the doors of the estate to the public. In 2012 Jean-Charles and Alexandre de Vogüé succeeded their father in running the estate. With different training and backgrounds, they are determined to increase its influence on the French and international cultural scenes. Ascanio de Vogüé, in turn, joined his brothers and the castle in 2015. They are now the fifth generation of their family to manage it.

The official Château Vaux le Vicomte

The Seine et Marne dept 77 tourist office on the castle

The local Melun valley of the Seine tourist office on the castle

There you go folks, a masterpiece that makes coming to France worth it. One of the best castles to visit and very memorable one of the first ones ever visited by my family in France. The Château Vaux-le-Vicomte is awesome a must to visit. Hope you have enjoy this condense historical post on it as I.

And remember, happy travels ,goodh health, and many cheers to all!!!

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