Louis Le Vau: The Architect of France
The 1600’s were influential years for interior design and architecture throughout the world, specifically in France. Design was becoming something to be celebrated, and with the Council of Trent calling for art that was less academic and more appealing to the public it was the perfect setting for a new era of design.
Born in 1612 in Paris, Louis Le Vau would live on to become Chief Architect to the King. Originally from a wealthy family, Le Vau was trained by his father; a stone mason employed at Fontainebleau; and developed his skills in stone masonry. His career began by designing elegant hotels for the bourgeoisie in France.
He predominately designed hotels and townhouse on the Ile Saint-Louis where he incorporated French and Baroque styles. One his most prominent designs on the Ile Saint-Louis were the remodel of the Hotel Lambert. Begun in 1640, Le Vau extended the main floor gallery towards the river allowing for a pleasant scenic view. When climbing the staircase the viewers enter an oval shaped vestibule which allows them to look down the enfilade layout rooms, through the vestibule, gallery and out to the Seine.
The Le Vau name began to garner more traction and became synonymous with extraordinary and opulent designs. Despite that, his past project paled in comparison to his newest feat, the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte, which was designed for wealthy finance minister to the king Nicholas Fouquet. His ideas were revolutionary and so grandiose it was unlike anything seen in France before. The salon was two stories with an oval dome and was placed on the garden façade. It conveys a sense symmetry and power through the use of large pediment, oval dome as well as alternating windows and pilasters.
An interesting point to note is that the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte was so grand that when Louis XIV saw it he confiscated it and Fouquet was thrown in prison for embezzlement; due to the fact there was no conceivable Fouquet could have been able to afford a castle ultimately fit for a king. This project set the foundation of Le Vau’s successful partnership with painter and architect Charles Brun and Le Notre. The success nature of this teamwork was apparent in the sharp execution of the interior decoration, architecture and the garden vista.
With so many successes under his belt, Le Vau continued to soar. It a joint venture with other famed architects Le Brun and Claude Perrault, he went on to design a new wing and colonnade for the Louvre. Today the Louvre’s most recognizable element is the glass pyramid, but back in the 1600’s Le Vau’s colonnades were the distinguishing characteristic. On the east side lines the free standing, two story double Corinthian columns almost line the entire east side of the building.
The success of the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte was precursor to Le Vau being recognized by Louis XIV. He was appointed architect to the king where head led a team of architects and artisans...