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Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Posted by roseofsharon_ON z6 ON Can (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 14, 04 at 16:44

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

Sharon


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

I am not sure what you want from this post Sharon. Do you have anything in particular that you would like to discuss? Are you interested in these two 'gardens' from a social history, a nasty politics, or a garden/landscape design point of view? This is a vast subject and it would help if you narrowed it down a bit.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

This was a topic that I picked from the vast "What Next" thread. I brought it out to try to spark some discussion. This forum is already slow moving so it is not my intention to further limit the scope of this topic. I would love to hear anything anyone has to say that relates to these two gardens which are considered the seminal works of formal French garden design. "Social history, a nasty politics, a garden/landscape design point of view", anecdotes, trivia; I'm open. My personal research is design from a material culture or social history point of view, but I'm interested to hear what others think and know from any point of view. Nasty politics sounds intriguing, and yes you're correct it could be a thread on its own but we are so slow moving it may as well be included for now until it threatens to completely highjack the thread.

Sharon


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

I am still hoping for a direction in this query because these gardens are important as is the period, and the milieu when they were made and why things turned out as they did. These are questions relevant to any restoration and whay some are worth preserving and others not.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Aahh there's the rub. I didn't make a query. I only made statements and hoped for a discussion. But now that you've raised the issue of "why some are worth preserving and others not" -- I do have some queries. I am not familiar with the history of the restoration of the gardens at Versailles. I know a little about the interiors. In each interior space it had to be decided which era to restore it to because of course over the centuries many renovations and redecorations happened. Did this same process occur in the gardens life and restoration?

Another issue is that Vaux-le-Vicomte is a private residence and property. It has only been restored because of the initiative of the present owner. Was it previously considered not sufficiently important enough for public monies or just too expensive?

Sharon


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Sharon-
Lots of discussion re this issue on the thread below of some time ago.

If some of the participants are still about, perhaps it could be revived.

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/restoration/msg0418063923161.html

Ginger


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RE: Book review

Sharon-
Just noticed that you have suggested a book club/book review re garden restoration. What do you have in mind?
Ginger


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Ginger,
That's the thread I picked the topic up from. Maybe it was initially just thrown out at random and with so much else in the thread no one really thought about this issue. I was hoping to present the oppurtunity to do so. I picked on it because I have visited both sites and they made quite an impression on me. My personal design preferences tend to be modernist. Only in music do I favour the Baroque. After seeing both Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versilles I realized why I disliked Baroque styling. When presented as a total work of art such as Versailles or Vaux-le-Vicomte it is literally in a grand context. In other words very large, allowing this detailed and overblown style to breathe. Literally living large. There is nothing intimate about Baroque style. When applied to urban twentieth and twenty-first century settings it becomes cramped and. There is no room for grand mathematical perspectives and the whole becomes riduculous, in my eyes. The restoration and preservation of sites such as Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte give us a chance to see a style at least in its physical context if not its social context. This leads the curious into the further research required for the social context and accurate restoration work.

As for the book club, I think that we could select a list of books to read, maybe starting in October. Everyone could participate as they wish. Reading whatever interests them or they have time for and then making comments. Someone would need to moderate to keep it going. We could take turns. Books could include diverse topics that relate to garden restoration: biographies, histories of particular gardens, histories of garden elements, histories and journals of plant hunting, exhibition publications, vintage gardening books, publications of vintage collections of illustrations or photos etc...

Sharon


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

The book club is absolutely a fabulous idea and I look forward to participating. Why can't we begin now? We could also mention it on other forums in which we participate--might interest a few more people to check out this forum.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

We could begin now by proposing suggestions for books and narrowing down the list. If we try to start reading before September I'm not sure how many will be with us. On the Rose off-topic conversation forum we had to suspend book club for the summer because not enough people could find time to read and garden. (I read on the subway.)I'll start proposing some books probably by the end of the day or tomorrow. Proposals should include name, author and a quick summary (about 10-50 words?). If anyone wants to start proposing books before I get to it please start a new thread.

Sharon


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Sounds good. I will be away for just a few days and will hope the thread is under way when I return.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Aah! finally some meat on dem bones. Not the book thing, that can make another thread but the baroque thing. It is possible that it was the baroqueness of Vaux that tipped Louis XIV over the edge with the help of M. Colbert (the dirty politics angle). Certainly Colbert was anti baroque and it was due to his prejudice that Bernini was sent packing, the fact that Bernini was Italian didn't help his case either. Try to see his original plan for the Louvre and you will see what we missed. So to simplify grossly, Vaux was baroque/Italian and not compatible with the absolutism the Sun King had in mind, Louis over ruled the judgement on Foucqet's fate ensuring that he was to be the last independent patron of the arts if those were the odds.
Sharon, perhaps this explains the difference, if not the opposition.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

You have touched on something. Bernini developed or retained the Mannerism of the Italian Baroque. The French were not so taken with this element and/or were determined to finally break free of Italian creative dominance. I am familiar with the Bernini facade for the Louvre, and his humiliation in Paris. Vaux is definitely a more Italianate building than Versailles but does this extend to the garden? Also Le Notre was French and was in the group giving grief to Bernini.

Sharon


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

The garden as it was, certainly, and this is the bit that is of interest to any restoration, "as it was". There is another thread about a 1880's garden, which is unlikely to have been anything like a garden as we understand it, at the time. Things change, are added to or extracted from, so it is necessary to be very clear about what one is restoring to.
To say that Louis was jealous is to trivialize just how power crazy he was, 'advised' by Colbert he ended an era that was epitomized by the group of artists drawn to Foucquet. Sure he used those same artists (maybe not la Fontaine) for his own ends and I think artists have been under this cloud ever since.


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RE: Vaux-le-Vicomte vs Versailles

Versailles has been restored to varying periods. For example the parterres in their original form had no flowers. Flowers were added during the seventeeth century by the orders of the Polish/German wife of Louis XV. She brought gifts of porcelain flowers with her to France, and while the French royal patrons not to be outdone by the Germans got busy with the development of their own porcelain (flowers etc...) the Queen had flowers added to what she considered to be the boring foliage of the parterres. Flowers are there now in its present form.

This makes it even more important for the restoration of Vaux which is still ongoing to be restored to the period of its creation. It does not have the quantity of competing histories that Versaille has.

Sharon


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