The third John Tschirch lecture of his series here at Redwood Library will focus on Vaux-le-Vitcomte; the building that sparked a king’s jealousy and the downfall of its owner. Vaux-le-Vicomte is a superb example of French Classical design. Built for Nicolas Fouquet, Minister of Finance for Louis XIV, the chateau is the creation of the great design team of Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun and Andre Le Notre, who would later create the palace of Versailles in an interesting turn of fate. This reading list will provide resources to learn more about the characters involved in the history of this beautiful chateau, and its unique history.
By, Charles Drazin
The story — straight out of Dumas — of the rise and fall of Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s first finance minister and the man who “outshone the Sun King.”
Sometime late in 1664, the musketeer D’Artagnan rode beside a heavily-armoured carriage as it rumbled southwards from Paris, carrying his great friend Nicolas Fouquet to internal exile and life imprisonment in the fortress of Pignerol. There he would be incarcerated in a cell next door to the Man with the Iron Mask. From a glittering zenith as the King’s first minister, builder of the chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, collector of books, patron of the arts and lover of beautiful women, Fouquet had fallen like Icarus. Charged with embezzlement, convicted and sentenced, it is in his downfall and incarceration that the man’s strength of character and grace emerge, as he somehow survives both solitary confinement and absence of books, pen and ink. The richness and contrasts of Fouquet’s remarkable story are brilliantly portrayed by Charles Drazin to reveal how the cunning, charisma and charm of Fouquet enchanted and beguiled, while at the same time sowed the seeds of his destruction.
By, Antonia Fraser
The self-proclaimed Sun King, Louis XIV ruled over the most glorious and extravagant court in seventeenth-century Europe. Now, Antonia Fraser goes behind the well-known tales of Louis’s accomplishments and follies, exploring in riveting detail his intimate relationships with women. The king’s mother, Anne of Austria, had been in a childless marriage for twenty-two years before she gave birth to Louis XIV. A devout Catholic, she instilled in her son a strong sense of piety and fought successfully for his right to absolute power. In 1660, Louis married his first cousin, Marie-Thérèse, in a political arrangement. While unfailingly kind to the official "Queen of Versailles," Louis sought others to satisfy his romantic and sexual desires. After a flirtation with his sister-in-law, his first important mistress was Louise de La Vallière, who bore him several children before being replaced by the tempestuous and brilliant Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan. Later, when Athénaïs’s reputation was tarnished, the king continued to support her publicly until Athénaïs left court for a life of repentance. Meanwhile her children’s governess, the intelligent and seemingly puritanical Françoise de Maintenon, had already won the king’s affections; in a relationship in complete contrast to his physical obsession with Athénaïs, Louis XIV lived happily with Madame de Maintenon for the rest of his life, very probably marrying her in secret. When his grandson’s child bride, the enchanting Adelaide of Savoy, came to Versaille she lightened the king’s last years—until tragedy struck.
With consummate skill, Antonia Fraser weaves insights into the nature of women’s religious lives—as well as such practical matters as contraception—into her magnificent, sweeping portrait of the king, his court, and his ladies.
By, Patricia Bouchenot-Déchin (Editor), Georges Farhat (Editor)
André Le Nôtre (1613–1700), principal gardener to Louis XIV, was France’s greatest landscape and garden designer. The parks created by him at Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles are the supreme examples of the French 17th-century style of garden design. He was responsible also for the central pathway through the Tuileries, which became the grand axis of Paris running to the Arc de Triomphe and on to La Défense.
This magnificent book sheds new light on the royal gardener’s life and his practice as a landscape architect, engineer and art collector, and examines the legacy of his influence. It highlights his major achievements and enhances our understanding of the French formal-garden model. Le Nôtre’s output is re-examined in terms of its social and cultural contexts; its artistic, technological, material and spatial components; and the dissemination of his ideas. The book contains illustrations of both original documents and the majority of extant drawings by Le Nôtre and his collaborators. Comprehensive and impeccably researched, André Le Nôtre in Perspective brings together the scholarship of some of the world’s leading experts in early-modern art, gardens and allied fields.
By, Franklin Hamilton Hazlehurst
Landscape gardening in seventeenth-century France was as vital to the life of the age as architecture, sculpture, and painting. In their formality and symmetry, the gardens were the coutnerpart of thestructures they were so carefully designed to embellish. The manicured landscapes were true products of the French rational intellect, an intellect that demanded a Nature controlled and dominated by human reason. Andre Le Nostre, the son and grandson of royal master gardeners, was the most influential landscape architect of his time." 418 pages, 370 photographs, plans and elevation drawings, colour section to rear.
By, Agnes Ethel McKay
One of the great Fabulists of the seventeeth century was Jean La Fontaine. As he was starting, the patron of French writing was the Superintendent Fouquet, to whom La Fontaine was introduced by Jacques Jannart, a connection of his wife's. Few people who paid their court to Fouquet went away empty-handed, and La Fontaine soon received a pension of 1000 livres (1659), on the easy terms of a copy of verses for each quarters receipt. He also began a medley of prose and poetry, entitled Le Songe de Vaux, on Fouquet's famous country house.