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Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Vaux-le-Vicomte is a French château, 6 km north-east of Melun, in the département of Seine-et-Marne. It was built between 1656 and 1661 for by Louis Le Vau for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s Surintendant des Finances. The gardens were laid out by André Le Nôtre under Le Vau’s guidance.

The forerunner of Versailles, it is the most important château built in France in the mid-17th century; it was here that Le Vau, Le Brun and Le Nôtre learnt to work as a team and to produce the unity of architecture, interior decoration and garden layout that distinguishes the Louis XIV style.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte - Architecture

Built in creamy limestone, the main block of the château is of compact design and sits in splendid isolation, surrounded by a moat and with an inner forecourt without flanking wings.

The entrance front is a series of recessed planes with two-bay outer pavilions with tall roofs overlapping two-bay inner pavilions with mansard roofs that provide a necessary intermediary between the lower roof of the main block .

The outer forecourt beyond the moat is flanked by two vast courtyards of stables and service buildings in brick and stone, providing the architectural overture to the château and the huge formal gardens beyond.

The château and courtyards are visually related by the use of tall roofs on the pavilions nearest the château and mansard roofs on those nearest the entrance gates.

On the garden side of the château the composition is dominated by an oval dome, a feature first introduced by Le Vau at Le Raincy. All these elements were hurriedly assembled by Le Vau (the outer shell of the building was completed in a single year, with 18,000 workmen simultaneously employed), which probably explains why the elevations are not well marshalled: the projecting oval Salon in particular does not harmonize with the rest of the garden façade.

Inside the château, Le Vau placed the main apartments on the ground floor, thus obviating the need for a grand staircase. A triple archway motif links the front entrance, the rectangular entrance hall, the domed oval Salon beyond and in turn the door on to the perron overlooking the gardens. To the left of the Salon are the rooms intended for the King, while to the right are those of Fouquet.

Interior Decoration

The interior decoration was entrusted to Le Brun, who designed the paintings, stuccowork and tapestries, thereby giving the interiors a noble unity of style. Originally there were 143 tapestries, many woven at the factory established by Fouquet at the nearby village of Maincy.

Some of the interior statuary, notably in the Grand Salon, was by François Girardon, who also executed the elaborate stucco decoration in conjunction with Nicolas Legendre.

The ceilings at Vaux-le-Vicomte are of particular interest. That of the first vestibule (now the dining-room) to the right of the entrance hall retains the tradition of exposed and delicately painted beams, which is typically French.

In the Chambre du Roi the ceiling is an elaborate composition of allegorical paintings, ornate mouldings and figures in full relief, which is typically Italian and probably based on Pietro da Cortona’s work in the Pitti Palace, Florence.

The decorations were almost complete, with the notable exception of the painting of the interior of the dome, for the famous celebrations on 17 August 1661, when Fouquet entertained Louis XIV and the Court, three weeks before his arrest and disgrace.

His arch-enemy Jean-Baptiste Colbert wasted no time in appropriating Fouquet’s team of artists and craftsmen to the service of the King and removing the finest statues and rarest trees in the park to Versailles.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte Gardens

The gardens at Vaux-le-Vicomte were the first great work of André Le Nôtre.

One of the objects of his extensive layout was to present a number of ‘pictures’ of the house. In his own plan of the gardens he showed the avenue running north from the entrance gates to a rond-point, from which only the central block of the château is visible.

This avenue is intersected by another at exactly the point at which not only the château but also its flanking archways are included in the picture. The underlying principles of the layout were that the formality of the château required a corresponding formality in its immediate surroundings and that the landscape should be the creation of human reason, making use of all that perspective, proportion and a subtle touch of optical illusion could confer.

Le Nôtre built his design along a central axis 800 m long from the windows of the Salon to the once-gilded colossal copy of the Farnese Hercules by Michel Anguier, which marks the horizon to the south. Anguier was the major provider of outdoor sculpture at Vaux-le-Vicomte.

The first impression is one of symmetry, but this is soon perceived to contain a refreshing note of variety. The land gently dips towards the small valley of the Anqueuil, a slope that has been cleverly used to conceal a number of features, notably the Grandes Cascades, which overlook the canalized stream and are answered by the grotto on the opposite bank.

To the east the ground rises sufficiently to enable walks at two different levels and some impressive flights of stone steps, in particular the Grille d’Eau at the end of the first transverse alley, which served as an outdoor theatre for Molière.

The gardens were reconstructed in the early 20th century by M. Alfred Sommier, omitting only the Allée d’Eau, which formed an avenue of fountains linking the first and second transverse alleys.

Visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Opening times:

The castle is open during summer time, from March to November, between. 10.00 and 18.00 (last admission: 17,45)

The castle is closed in winter time except in December when it is open in weekends.

Ticket Information:

An adult ticket is 14 / 16 € (Simple visit vs. Complete visit). for children 6 -16 years old the ticket is 11 / 13 € and a family ticket is 44 / 52 €.

Audioguide availabe in 7 different languages: 2 € per unit.

Guided visit tickets also available from 180 € (max. 30 persons). See more information here.

Contact details:
Official website:
Phone: +33 (0)      
Fax: +33 (0)

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte Map&Location

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte Address: 77950 Maincy, France. Get help with directions using the map provided bellow:

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Vaux-le-Vicomte Photos

Photos © Mark Schlemmer - Click on the images to enlarge

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte panorama

Vaux-le-Vicomte garden
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte building
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte building
Vaux-le-Vicomte didactic construction dispaly
Chandelier © Mark Schlemmer
Photos © Giovanni
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte courtyard
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte view
Vaux-le-Vicomte inside the dome © Giovanni
Photos © Jérémy Couture
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte park
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte statue © Jérémy Couture
Photos © Emily
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte detail

Vaux-le-Vicomte wine cellar © Emily