o76a1256-1.jpg

Before Versailles,

There Was Vaux-le-Vicomte

EPISODE #1

VAUX

the art club

Welcome to our time travel through the history and personal stories of a handful of the most iconic places that families call their home today.

 

In Episode 1 we step inside Vaux-le-Vicomte, the largest private chateau in France. Originally built by Nicolas Fouquet in 1661 it has now been owned by the Vogüé family for 5 generations. 

 

It  is the past  that  informs the present and enables us to appreciate  and understand the future - and it shall be our pleasure to meet Alexandre de Vogüé, whose family have been the custodians of Vaux for the last 150 years, the faithful upholders of Fouquet's magnificent creation.

But first, let us travel back in time, when the legend of Vaux started with one very fateful and utterly unforgettably party ...

"Fouquet really wanted

to blow the mind of everyone"

- Alexandre de Vogüé -

PODCAST

"It was a land I considered to be my main domain, where I wanted to leave some trace

of the state in which I had lived...”

 

Nicolas Fouquet

Screenshot (2457).png

Past & Present

 

Alexandre de Vogüé

on growing up at Vaux

"It was a different home from my friends at school, but back then I didn’t realise at all the privilege I do feel I have today – the huge privilege to preside over Vaux’s destiny.”

Five Generations

Alfred Sommier (1835-1908)

The industrialist purchased Vaux at auction in 1875 and launched the colossal task of restoring the abandoned estate to its former glory.  His son, Edme Sommier and his wife Germaine Casimir-Perier, pursued the mission, during all their lives. This task continues today under the stewardship of their grandson, Patrice de Vogüé, and his three sons, Jean-Charles, Alexandre and Ascanio.

Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé

Alfred Sommier’s great-grandson, Patrice de Vogüé opened the estate to the public in 1968.  He is a tireless advocate of 17th century decorative arts and regards his home as an example of their apex. His wife Cristina created a  souvenir shop, considered one of the most beautiful château gift stores in France, and opened  the restaurant le Relais de l’Ecureuil in 1985.

The Vogüé family also created a non-profit foundation, “L’Association des Amis de Vaux-le-Vicomte” in 1983 as a fundraising vehicle for the restoration and preservation of this world-class treasure.

Ascanio, Jean-Charles and Alexandre de Vogüé

In 2012, Jean-Charles and Alexandre de Vogüé followed in their father’s footsteps and took over the running of the domain, determined to increase its influence on the French and international cultural scene. Joined by their brother Ascanio in 2015, they thus become the fifth generation of their family to manage the domain.

NEXT EPISODES

bunker.png

BOROS ART BUNKER

BERLIN

Villa-Malaparte_Capri_Italien-1200x700.j

CASA MALAPARTE

CAPRI

salon-de-las-duenas__1280x921.jpg

PALACIO

DE LAS DUENAS 

SEVILLA

1520956933958.jfif

LONGLEAT HOUSE 

LONGLEAT

fallingwater-frank-lloyd-wright.jpg

FALLINGWATER

PENNSYLVANIA

EPISODE #1: VAUX

Screenshot (2464).png

Nicholas Fouquet

VAUX LE VICOMTE, 51 MILES FROM PARIS ... THE REMARKABLE CREATION OF NICHOLAS FOUQUET, FIRST MINISTER AND  FINANCIER EXTRAORDINAIRE ...  

 

FOUQUET ACQUIRED THE ESTATE IN 1641. HE WAS BORN TO A WELL REGARDED FAMILY OF THE  NOBLESSE DE LA ROBE AND BY THE AGE OF 26 WAS AN INFLUENTIAL MEMBER OF THE PARLEMENT DE  PARIS, SO MUCH SO THAT HE JOINED THE SUITE OF CARDINAL MAZARIN, THE DE FACTO RULER OF  FRANCE, THE NEXT YEAR. 

 

A PASSIONATE SUPPORTER OF THE ARTS, FOUQUET ENLISTED THE GREATEST TALENTS IN FRANCE TO  REALISE HIS MONUMENTAL VISION - LOUIS LE VAU THE RENOWNED ARCHITECT, CHARLES LE BRUN THE  ACCLAIMED DECORATOR AND ANDRE LE NOTRE THE EXCEPTIONAL GARDEN DESIGNER.

 

FOUQUET HAD AN ENTIRELY ORIGINAL MASTER PLAN: HE REQUIRED PERFECT HARMONY AND  COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE CREATIVE TRIO, HE GAVE THEM FREE REIGN, UNLIMITED FUNDS  AND ENCOURAGED THEM TO BE AS AUDACIOUS AND BOLD AS POSSIBLE ….. AND SO IN 1656  CONSTRUCTION COMMENCED .….

FOUQUET WAS AN INSPIRED PATRON AND VISIONARY, FOR VAUX TRANSFORMED THE WAY BY  WHICH GREAT HOUSES WERE UNDERSTOOD AND DEFINED.

UPON COMPLETION OF THE MASTERPIECE … AND TWENTY YEARS - TWENTY YEARS!! - AFTER  PURCHASING THE ESTATE … FOUQUET HOSTED A “HOUSE-WARMING“ PARTY OF EXTRAORDINARY GRANDEUR, FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT  GUEST IN FRANCE: THE THEN 22 YEAR OLD SUN-KING LOUIS XIV. 

 

FOUQUET ASPIRED TO BECOME HIS FIRST MINISTER AND HOPED THE CELEBRATION WOULD  BOLSTER HIS CREDENTIALS.  HOWEVER, IT IS NO EXAGGERATION THAT THE FEAST AT VAUX  CHANGED THE FORTUNES OF FOUQUET, FRANCE AND INDEED THE WORLD ....

Feu-d-artifice-Vaux-le-Vicomte-630x405-C

August 17,1661

ON THAT FATEFUL AUGUST 17 1661, LOUIS ARRIVED AT 6.00PM, WITH HIS MOTHER THE  DOWAGER QUEEN, ANNE OF AUSTRIA AND HIS FULL RETINUE OF THOUSANDS - NO  DOUBT THIS INCLUDED HIS MISTRESS EN TITRE THAT EXQUISITE FRAGRANT SEXPOT  LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE.

 

VATEL, THE HUGELY CELEBRATED CHEF OF FOUQUET SERVED A  MAGNIFICENT COLD FEAST TO THE ROYAL GUESTS WHO WERE SEATED IN THE  GARDENS AT 80 - EIGHTY - TABLES .......... AND ATE OFF GOLD PLATE ( THAT IS A  LOT OF GOLD PLATE !!) THE PREMIERE OF MOLIERE'S COMÉDIE-BALLET, ‘LES FÂCHEUX’ FOLLOWED,  ENLIVENED WITH MUSIC BY LULLY, RESPECTIVELY THESE WERE THE GREATEST PLAYWRIGHT &  COMPOSER OF THE AGE!  

THE EVENING CONCLUDED WITH PERHAPS THE MOST SPECTACULAR DISPLAY OF FIREWORK  EVER WITNESSED IN THE REALM - AND THEN  ... DISASTER STRUCK … AN UTTER CATASTROPHE.

 

COMPLETELY UNFORESEEN BY FOUQUET - THE YOUNG, INSECURE AND IMPRESSIONABLE  SUN KING …….WHOSE ROYAL NOSE TRULY HAD BEEN PUT RIGHT OUT OF JOINT ( TO PUT IT  MILDLY !) BY THIS MAGNIFICENT SPECTACLE OF GRANDEUR FROM WHAT HE CONSIDERED AN  OVERMIGHTY SUBJECT …...A DISPLAY LOUIS COULD NOT RIVAL NOR EVEN IMAGINE UNTIL  THAT EVENING ….. THE KING LEFT, DEPARTED, BUGGERED OFF … RATHER THAN STAY IN THE  BEDROOM BUILT FOR HIM ( A ROOM WE SHALL MOST CERTAINLY LINGER IN LATER !!)

 

FOUQUET HAD MADE A MASSIVE MISCALCULATION AND HAD UTTERLY MISJUDGED THE  PSYCHOLOGY OF HIS MONARCH. SUCH AN EXTREME SNUB AND DISPLAY OF ROYAL  DISFAVOUR FROM THE KING LEAD FOUQUET TO OFFER - IN VAIN - THE KEYS OF THE CHATEAU  TO HIS MONARCH. 

 

INSTEAD, LOUIS WENT STRAIGHT BACK TO PARIS, A JOURNEY HE CANNOT HAVE LOOKED  FORWARD TO BY NIGHT …… ALBEIT NO DOUBT CONSIDERABLY MITIGATED BY THE PRESENCE  IN THE ROYAL CARRIAGE OF THE DELECTABLE AND DELICIOUS LOUISE DE LA VALLIERE ……. 

 

AS VOLTAIRE PERFECTLY SUMMED IT UP:

 

“ON 17 AUGUST, AT SIX IN THE EVENING FOUQUET WAS  THE KING OF FRANCE: AT TWO IN THE MORNING HE WAS NOBODY.” 

4122200085_7a23ee469a_b.jpg

Fouquet's Fate

THREE WEEKS LATER THE KING STRUCK - FOUQUET WAS ARRESTED BY D’ARTAGNAN, CAPTAIN OF THE ROYAL MUSKETEERS ON CHARGES OF EMBEZZLEMENT, ( WE SHALL FOLLOW HIS THREE YEAR TRIAL LATER IN THIS EPISODE.)

 

FOUQUET WOULD NEVER RETURN TO HIS BELOVED VAUX. THE SPITEFUL KING OVERTURNED THE SENTENCE OF BANISHMENT IMPOSED BY THE PARLEMENT AND WITH MORE THAN A WHIFF OF VENGEANCE INCARCERATED THE CREATOR OF VAUX IN THE GRIM FORTRESS OF PIGNEROL NEAR TURIN IN 1664 FOR THE  REST OF HIS DAYS, 16 LONG YEARS. IT IS SAID THAT THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK WAS IMPRISONED IN THE NEXT DOOR CELL. LOUIS TURNED A DEAF EAR TO ALL PLEAS FOR CLEMENCY AND FORCEFULLY EXPRESSED ROYAL DISPLEASURE AT SUCH UNWELCOME INITIATIVES, EVEN TO THE ELEGANT AND SUBTLE PLEA OF LA FONTAINE.

 

VAUX WAS RANSACKED, PILLAGED OF IT ‘S SUPERB FURNISHINGS, PICTURES, GOLD PLATE,  TAPESTRIES, STATUES AND OBJECTS OF ART. EVEN THE ORANGE TREES WERE STOLEN AND TRANSFERRED TO THE NEW PALACE AT VERSAILLES ….. WHERE HE (RATHER LESS SUCCESSFULLY THAN HIS MINISTER) SOUGHT TO  PERSONIFY THE GREATNESS AND GLORY OF FRANCE AND TO OVERWHELM THE BEHOLDERS  WITH THE GLOIRE AND RADIANCE OF THE SUN-KING (WITH A LESS SUBTLE AND HEAVY  HAND.)

 

HOWEVER, ANATOLE FRANCE, THE GREAT FRENCH POET AND WRITER NOTED WITH HIS USUAL PERSPICACITY: 

"WHAT LOUIS XIV COULD  NOT TAKE FROM FOUQUET WAS THE SENSE OF TASTE THE FEELING FOR ART, AND THE  DELICATE PROFOUND INSTINCT FOR BEAUTY THAT MADE THE SUPERINTENDENT SO DEAR  TO ALL THE ARTISTS WHO WORKED FOR HIM.”  

VLV-Soirée-aux-Chandelles-2018-photo-par

Vaux

Past & Present

IN MY 30 ODD YEARS AT CHRISTIE’S AS A GENERAL VALUER I HAD THE PRIVILEGE  AND PLEASURE OF WALKING AROUND THE GREAT ESTATES OF EUROPE AND WE ARE  UNQUESTIONABLY STANDING OUTSIDE ONE OF SEVEN WONDERS OF FRANCE AND  ONE OF THE LOVELIEST BUILDINGS IN THE WORLD. 

 

SO LET US JOURNEY BACK IN TIME TO THE EVENING THAT CHANGED HISTORY. LET US DINE WITH LOUIS  XIV, DANCE WITH LOUISE DE LA VALIERE AND LET’S HEAR FROM THE MAN HIMSELF, NICOLAS FOUQUET.  

 

OUR VOYAGE AT VAUX WILL EXPLORE THE HISTORY OF THE BUILDING AND GARDENS AND THE  EMBELLISHMENT OF BOTH …. AND ABOVE ALL THE PERSONAL STORIES AND FAMILY FATES THAT THESE  WALLS HAVE WITNESSED OVER THE PAST 350 YEARS. 

AND WHOM BETTER TO BE OUR GUIDE THAN THE FAMILY WHO CALLS VAUX THEIR HOME TODAY.  IT SHALL BE OUR PLEASURE TO MEET ALEXANDRE DE VOGUE, WHOSE FAMILY HAVE BEEN FOR FIVE GENERATIONS THE MOST REMARKABLE CUSTODIANS OF VAUX, THE FAITHFUL UPHOLDERS OF FOUQUET’s MAGNIFICENT CREATION .... ALEXANDRE WILL SHOW US THOSE FATEFUL KEYS REJECTED BY THE SUN-KING!

 

THE PRESENT IS OUR ROADMAP TO THE FUTURE AND  WE SHALL PONDER WHAT LESSONS WE CAN LEARN AND DRAW OUT SOME  UNIVERSAL PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE US FORWARDS - MY GOODNESS I AM SO CONFIDENT THAT WE SHALL  NOT FAIL. 

ANATOLE FRANCE ALSO WROTE THAT

“ ... TO ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS, WE MUST NOT ONLY ACT BUT ALSO DREAM: NOT ONLY PLAN BUT BELIEVE “

 

IS VAUX NOT THE PERFECT EXPRESSION - INCARNATION IN STONE - OF THIS INSIGHT - VAUX - VAUX THE INCOMPARABLE AWAITS US ..........