©Vaux le Vicomte
VAUX LE VICOMTE
Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden is the seminal expression of the Jardin à la française, the French aesthetic of formal gardens that swept Europe in the 17th century. From 1641, Nicolas Fouquet gave full rein to the genius of the renowned landscape gardener André Le Nôtre who used the latest technical, scientific and artistic knowledge of his era.
Carved from 33 hectares (100 acres) of woodlands, the formal gardens were laid out along a three-kilometer axis to create a stunning setting for the château and its outbuildings. Working in close collaboration, Le Nôtre and the architect Louis Le Vau produced the greatest 17th century example of near perfect harmony between nature and the built environment. Together, the three artists benefited from Fouquet’s absolute faith in them, and were given a bare landscape to work with. This blank canvas enabled the perfect symbiosis between the various scenic elements. As soon as you lay eyes on it, Vaux-le-Vicomte makes a big impression, thanks to its sense of cohesion and unity. The broderie parterres, ponds, fountains and statuary, along with all the plants and buildings, are a unique achievement whose harmony and well-judged proportions charm the visitor from the very first glance. In the rectilinear structure of the gardens, their perfect balance and the interplay of false symmetries, we see the metaphysical ideal of the gardener, who bends nature to suit his purpose. Drawing on new developments in science and taking a modern outlook, Le Nôtre designed a work that is both rigorous and varied. He displays a subtle taste for the unexpected, making liberal use of surprise effects. Trompe l’oeil dimensions, optical illusions and other revelations are dotted throughout the gardens, ensuring the walker never experiences a dull moment.