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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
Visit Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
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.
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.
Official website: vaux-le-vicomte.com
Phone: +33 (0)126.96.36.199.90
Fax: +33 (0)188.8.131.52.85
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:
View Larger Map