Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Last Saturday I went with a friend to visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, about 45 mins south of Paris.

Built between 1658-61, it was the first in what became known as the Louis XIV style, which is now arguably the “typical” look of a French chateau.

It was built as the personal home of one Nicolas Fouquet, who became King Louis XIV’s superintendent of finances in 1657. That’s right: the chap in charge of the France’s money built himself that house a year after taking up the position. Audits and oversight might have been a bit more lax in those days.

Setting the standard for what would follow in many French chateaus, M. Fouquet didn’t skimp on the gardens.

Alas, things didn’t work out too well for our intrepid superintendent of finances:

[T]he king had Fouquet arrested shortly after a famous fête that took place on 17 August 1661…The celebration had been too impressive and the superintendent’s home too luxurious.

Building yourself a house like that when you work for King Louis XIV is a bit like Roman Abramovich’s accountant buying a mega-yacht several metres longer than that of his boss. Probably not a good idea if self-preservation is top of your agenda.

Jean-Baptiste Colbert led the king to believe that his minister’s magnificence was funded by the misappropriation of public funds.

Ya think?!

However, Louis XIV was suitably impressed and ordered a similar chateau for himself at Versailles.

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is now privately owned, administered by three brothers, the descendants of those who bought the place in 1875 after it had stood neglected for 30 years. It is open to the public, and you can rent a golf buggy to drive yourself around if you’re bone-idle (we are, so we did).

In the 19th century somebody built a golden statue of Hercules at the far end of the garden.

One of the main attractions of the chateau is the candlelit evenings they put on each Saturday in summer. They lay out a couple of thousand candles around the gardens and chateau and everyone stays until sundown and says “Aaaaaaaah!”

It was worth the wait, although we didn’t hang around for the 11pm firework display. If you can make it one day, it’s worth doing. It is nicer than the Palace of Versailles in my opinion, which I thought was too big, lacking character, and too full of tourists.

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16 thoughts on “Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

  1. No expert but I’d take Fouquet over Colbert any day. He got the taxes in for his king without ruining the economy, a rarity in those days. (And maybe these days too.)

  2. Stunning, I love those type of gaffs. I don’t think the statue is built of gold, no reason to pull it down though.

  3. It’s a nice pile. Also pleased to see it hasn’t been appropriated by the State and used as luxury offices for some useless quango or other.

  4. The first photo makes me suspect that the architect was in a private competition with his mates. How far can you go to making a dome look like a breast with an engorged nipple?

    Maybe I’ve had too much caffeine this morning.

  5. Vaux is lovely. The end of year summer ball of the graduate programme I was on was held in the chateau itself and for all that it looks very imposing, the scale of the rooms is not overpowering. Louis had an impressive pile of his own not far away in Fontainebleau.

  6. Superb photographs, but the architecture is not to my taste – not least because the dome is absurd.

  7. Cheers. Looks excellent. I’ve done a few of the Chateaux of the Loire. Chenonceau really stands out. And I like the many fine houses of the Medoc, too.

    As a Parisian resident, have you been to the Rodin Museum? It’s my favourite museum in Paris and also a lovely house and gardens. It’s not big and because it’s not the D’Orsay or the Louvre, doesn’t get the hoardes of visitors.

  8. I don’t think the statue is built of gold, no reason to pull it down though.

    Someone would have stolen his knob by now if it was.

  9. looks just like my house

    I hope you also have a giant golden statue of yourself on the lawn!

  10. How far can you go to making a dome look like a breast with an engorged nipple?

    He was French. Bare breasts are their thing.

  11. Louis had an impressive pile of his own not far away in Fontainebleau.

    Yeah, I like Fountainebleau too, again much more so than Versailles. It’s beautiful in autumn.

  12. Superb photographs,

    Thanks!

    but the architecture is not to my taste – not least because the dome is absurd.

    Tsk, heathen! That’s my favourite bit, albeit mainly from a structural engineering POV.

  13. Nah, it’s not in France, it was moved brick by brick to California by Hugo Drax.

    Heh, well spotted! A pal of mine on Facebook pointed this out, I had no idea!

  14. As a Parisian resident, have you been to the Rodin Museum?

    No, and I probably should. I went to Rodin’s other residence at Chateau de l’Islette in the summer, but someone had to tell me who he was. I’m a bit of a knuckle-dragger when it comes to painting and sculpture.

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