France / Garden and Landscapes / History / International

Le Nôtre’s Vaux-le-vicomte

The Vaux-le-vicomte was a haven for upcoming french artists of the 17th century. Writers, painters, sculptors and poets all gave the Vaux a part of their talent.

Nicolas Fouquet commissioned the construction of the chateau and the garden to be connected to it, it was to be the greatest estate in France for it’s time. The estate quickly became the scene for lavish parties and excitement in France. Soon after, the kind himself asked for a visit. – One thing the land was rich in was drama. For the King had secretly decided to kill Fouquet. As he arrived on the ground, he had Fouquet arrested and that seized the progress of Vaux all together in 1661.

Le Nôtre’s first masterpiece, is divided up into a sequence of terraces, forming an orderly composition of broderies of box based on motifs from Turkish carpets, bordered flower beds, shrubberies, grottos, lawns, lakes and fountains. If no other garden of the period were to have survived, the Vaux gardens would suffice to illustrate the principles of landscape gardening in the age of elegance.

An experience of walking through Vaux:


  • Ride through the central gate.
  • Dismount in the middle of lower court and wait for a stable hand to take your horse.
  • Walk over the bridge of the moat.
  • Stop in the middle of inner court to admire the symmetry of the chateau and the views across the moat of the right and left parterre.
  • Notice the strong geometry of the grove on the left, laid out in a quincunx pattern.
  • Continue to the front door of the chateau. Walk round all the public rooms on the first floor, go upstairs to look down on the main parterre stretched out before you with the main axis disappearing into the distance and up the hill. Pause to appreciate.
  • Walk out the central door on the garden side, cross the moat and the first transverse axis and walk up the main axis examining the embroidery parterre.
  • Turn left at the second transverse axis and walk half way along it. Look down at the sunken parterre with the Fountain of the Crown and check to see if it is shooting up water.
  • Continue to the end of the second transverse axis until you come to the Grille d’eau (the water grill) and take a seat, remembering that this was where Molière’s play, Les Facheux, was performed in August 1661 in honor of Louis XIV.

    Vaux-le-vicomte, France

  • Reverse your way to the opposite end of the transverse axis, go through the gate and explore the area once the kitchen garden.
  • Wander back along the same second transverse axis and pause to look at the large lawn-and-pool rectangular space;  exult in the knowledge that this has now been replanted as a parterre of flowers.
  • Continue to the central axis and turn right on it and wander on to the Le Miroir (the Mirror Pool) (12). Turn and look back to the chateau and see if it is reflected in the pool today
  • Continue along the main axis and pause immediately above the cascade.  Look across the canal, notice the grottos and the Tiber river god and the Ancueil river god.
  • If there is a boat available, and use it to  cross the canal and land by the ramp. If there is no boat, walk to the end of the canal (left),  and walk back to arrive at the ramp.
  • Walk up the ramp and then turn right to examine the Gerbe fountain in the pool on the central axis.  Look back to the chateau and notice how now you can now see the full glory of the cascade across the canal
  • Continue walking up the hill until you come to a copy of the Farnese Hercules. Greet him affectionately and then turn around to get another splendid view of the chateau and its gardens. Sit down on the grass to think about the relationship of the parts and how the design works.



Vaux Today


3 thoughts on “Le Nôtre’s Vaux-le-vicomte

  1. Pingback: Thank you Wordpress! « Arch-itec-tessica

  2. Pingback: Le Nôtre’s Versailles « Arch-itec-tessica

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