Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles
This is a challenge picked up from another thread. I don't think that it is a question of grave importance and I don't think that anyone would suggest sacrificing one for the other. It's strictly a matter of aesthetics and taste and fun.
I have visited both properties twice. Both times it was in the month of July, the weather was fabulous and I was thrilled to be in France. Vaux-le-Vicomte can be seen in half a day but Versailles requires at least a whole day. It's like comparing a jewel box to an amusement park.
Vaux-le-Vicomte is a complete work of art, truly a harmony of landscape and architecture, a comprehensible whole. The garden is organized around a clear geometric axis and orchestrated vistas. The house features an organized procession of reception halls, foyers and staircases, presented through precise enfilades of doorways.
Versailles was built to impress, as a symbol of the power and supremacy of the Sun King over all of France and France's superiority to all of Europe. It began as the hunting lodge of Louis XIV's father Louis XIII. Massive renovations and additions were made to the original building and while impressive in size are not aesthetically coherent as a whole and create a maze-like interior. Additions continued to be made into the nineteenth-century. Massive reception halls contrast with the rabbit warren of apartments built to house the nobility. The gardens include a similar plan to Vaux-le-Vicomte, particularily the Grand Canal, but several features were added to entertain various monarchs, their consorts and their mistresses. Le Petit Trianon gave Madame Pompdour an intimate space within which to entertain the King. Le Hameau was the farm replica where Marie Antoinette could escape court protocol and play shepherdess. The massive fountain sculptures were aesthetic representations of the mythic and colossal scope of the King's power. Even his wealth couldn't keep them all flowing at once. To this day they are on an intermittant schedule.
Louis XIV had Nicholas Fouquet the owner and patron of Vaux-le-Vicomte imprisoned for life on trumped up charges of embezzlement. Fouquet was minister of finance and jealous ministers wanted to replace him. They encouraged Louis XIV's jealousy and suspicions for their own ends. Louis XIV was jealous and suspicious because he had spent his whole life within the confines of the Palais Royale and the Louvre, dark Medieval and Renaissance structures in need of renovation, hiding from the struggles for power that raged before he came of age. A revolt of the nobility against the royal family particularily left him aand insecure. He took the architects of Vaux-le-Vicomte, Andre Le Notre(landscape) and Louis Le Vau (building), and had them design Versailles. He moved the French court from Paris to Versailles so that he could control the activities of the nobility and be at the centre of political and artistic activity.
Please feel free to add your thoughts and corrections